"Anticipatory Self-Defense" and Other Stories

Jeanne M. Woods, James M. Donovan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We argue that the specious justification for the invasion of Iraq -- a war based on a pretext of anticipatory self-defense -- necessarily exacerbates the inherent tendency of war to dehumanize and humiliate the enemy. This tendency is particularly evident in the variant of anticipatory self-defense that we have denominated as "capacity preemption," a type of claim that by definition depends upon characterizations of the opponent as utterly inhuman.

The Bush Doctrine tells a timeless story of self-defense. This story is shaped by an identifiable and predictable narrative structure, one that is able to transform the morally outrageous -- an unprovoked aggressive war -- into the legally reasonable. Utilizing the theoretical tools of anthropological structuralism, our analysis examines the rhetorical use of the anticipatory self-defense narrative to veil hidden agendas of domination and conquest.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalKansas Journal of Law & Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


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