Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Andreas Laursen

First Page



At the beginning of the twenty-first century, debates about international law and the use of force have gained new momentum. This is due to the armed conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well as the publication of two recent security strategies by the U.S. government. These strategies consider the possibility of preemptive use of force and have received considerable criticism from international law scholars. Professor Laursen asks whether the necessity excuse in international law allows for preemptive strikes of the sort envisioned by the U.S. security strategies. Following an examination of the status of the necessity excuse in international law, which finds that necessity is a legitimate part of current international law and under certain circumstances provides an excuse for a state's breach of its obligations, Professor Laursen analyzes whether the necessity excuse may be invoked in the context of the use of force. He concludes that the necessity excuse is not normally available in the case of use of force against "traditional" terrorism. With regard to "new" terrorism, the excuse may be appropriate, but the central issue of "imminence" will remain problematic when considering preemptive strikes.