In his address at West Point on June 1, 2002, President George W. Bush appeared to be signaling America's willingness to regard the mere possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by potential enemies as grounds for an anticipatory war. Historically, however, a clear distinction has been drawn between preemptive and preventive, or anticipatory, war, with the latter regarded as illegitimate. The National Security Strategy announced by the president on September 20, 2002, was more conventional in its approach to preemption, but doubts remain as to whether the old distinction can be preserved. And this discussion is taking place in the context of a specific problem, namely the apparent desire of Iraq to obtain WMD and the determination of the United States, and, less clearly expressed, the UN Security Council, to prevent this from happening.
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