The war on terrorism is a new kind of war that requires approaches different from those of the past. The United States is fighting an insidious enemy who does not play by the old rules; an enemy without uniforms or insignia, who mingles with civilians and hides among them, targeting innocent noncombatants without warning.
President George W. Bush's administration has proclaimed a policy of preempting terror because our traditional practice of acting only when openly provoked simply will not do anymore. Americans cannot wait for another terrorist attack before taking action. Offensive measures may well be required to protect U.S. citizens and cities.
This policy may appear to place us in the role of aggressor—a distinctly uncomfortable one for the United States, even when the cause is just. A preemptive stance often will put us at odds with allies, as the debate over whether or not to attack Iraq illustrates. But we have made it abundantly clear since the 11 September attacks that we will act—alone, if necessary—against any nation or organization that threatens us and shelters or supports international terrorism.