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The Bush Administration since 9-11 has adopted a strategy, which in some sense depends upon the ability to predict with incredible accuracy at what will happen in the future. It was given its name by the U.S. Attorney General during the first Bush Administration, Missouri’s John Ashcroft, who argued that what we need in the wake of 9-11 is a “preventive paradigm.” The argument is understandable: when facing foes who are willing to commit suicide in order to inflict mass casualties on innocent civilians, it is not enough to bring them to justice after the fact. The perpetrators are dead--and so are many innocent civilians. Thus, the goal must be to prevent the next terrorist attack from occurring.

The author makes three points about this preventive paradigm. The first is that it puts tremendous pressure on the values that we associate with the rule of law, the Constitution, and the American society at its best. Second, he argues that while this preventive paradigm has been adopted in the name of making us more secure, it has in fact made us less secure and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Third, he suggests that this was tragically unnecessary. Prevention is possible without compromising our most fundamental principles and without inspiring the kind of backlash that the preventive paradigm has occasioned.

Publication Citation

8 J. Inst. Just. & Int'l Stud. 1-8 (2008)