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A Doctrine Under Pressure: Pre-emption Is Redefined


Published: October 11, 2004

RAWFORD, Tex., Oct. 10 - Under pressure to explain anew his decision to invade Iraq in light of a damaging report from the C.I.A.'s top weapons inspector, President Bush appears to be quietly redefining one of the signature philosophies of his administration - his doctrine of pre-emptive military action.

Traditionally, pre-empting an enemy is all about urgency, striking before the enemy strikes. In the prelude to the invasion in March of last year, Mr. Bush and his aides stopping short of saying Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent" threat. Still, they used urgent-sounding language at every turn to explain why they could not afford to wait for inspectors to complete their work, or for the United Nations Security Council to come to a consensus on authorizing military action. "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," he said in a speech delivered Oct. 7, 2002.