Iraq, Preemption, and the Views of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary

By Hammock, Gordon R. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Iraq, Preemption, and the Views of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary


Hammock, Gordon R., Air & Space Power Journal


Editorial Abstract: Colonel Hammock examines the generally favorable actions and views of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in response to the announced US strategy of preemption and the recent implementation of that policy in Iraq.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

-President George W. Bush

POLAND, THE CZECH REPUBLIC, and Hungary see merit in many of the arguments supporting the announced US strategy of preemption and, particularly, the recent implementation of that strategy in Iraq. They would, nevertheless, have preferred to avoid "choosing sides" between the important countries and bodies involved in that discussion (i.e., the United States, individual European nations, the European Union [EU], the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], and the United Nations [UN] and its Security Council). However, when compelled to do so, Polish leaders emerge as the most supportive of US actions with the Czech and Hungarian leaders not far behind. Hungary, though, seems to be losing steam in the longer term. This article reviews the US policy of preemption, and the sequence of international political events relating to the application of that policy in Iraq; it then examines the views and actions of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

The US National Security Strategy and Preemption

The words of President Bush, quoted in the opening epigraph and spoken during his State of the Union Address on 29 January 2002,1 were eventually integrated into the new National Security Strategy, which he signed on 17 September 2002. That strategy asserted that "we must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends" (emphasis added).2 It also outlined three criteria-the inability to deter, the immediacy of the threat, and the magnitude of the potential harm-that when combined cause a situation to warrant "preemptive" action.3

Importantly, the new US policy can be triggered by either a capability or simply an effort to obtain a capability, when it is combined with a presumed hostile intent. This new standard is a significant relaxation of the long-standing, apparent requirement for such a use of force.4 More to the point, it injects a fair amount of subjective judgment into an equation that had historically been more objective in nature.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet to the UN

On 12 September 2002, President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly and detailed Iraq's history of noncompliance and deception regarding previous Security Council resolutions; more importantly, he challenged the UN to become the full-bodied institution its founders intended and pledged the United States to work with the UN to that end. That said, President Bush made clear his resolve, that should the Security Council fail to measure up to the task, the United States would fill the resultant breach.5

Congressional Approval of Use of Force against Iraq

On 16 October 2002, President Bush signed into law House Joint Resolution 114, which allowed force against Iraq.6 Although debate on the measure was fairly abbreviated, the resulting measure was comprehensive in both its scope and design.7 The resolution articulated a rationale for the United States to take preemptive action in self-defense, supported presidential efforts to work with and through the Security Council, and authorized the use of force in self-defense or to enforce Security Council resolutions.8 Finally, the resolution entrusted solely to the president any future decision to use force-requiring at that future time the president to determine that

* reliance on diplomatic or other peaceful means will not protect US national security or will not lead to the enforcement of relevant Security Council resolutions, and that

* such action is consistent with the overarching actions of the United States and other countries in pursuing international terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons involved in perpetrating the events of 11 September 2001. …

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