Point of Attack:
Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare 

John Yoo

Point of Attack makes the case that modern wars will often be fought within nations, rather than between them, and that recent and likely future threats will come from rogue nations, rather than from major powers.

Author John Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and has been an American Enterprise Institute scholar for ten years. He served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and worked in the Justice Department as a foreign affairs and national security advisor. His opinions are widely published in law journals and major newspapers.

In Point of Attack, Yoo examines wars beginning with ancient conflicts. He delves into concepts that involve rethinking defensive, preemptive, or preventive measures with an eye to what most advances "global welfare." One major current source of concern is Iran becoming a nuclear power. Passing the Corker Amendment, the Republican Senate effectively changed the Constitution by requiring a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress to disapprove of treaties negotiated by the U.S. President. Yoo criticizes this move which grants more power to the president.

In this book, John Yoo suggests that to deal with nations like Iran we must "transform the rules of war," including the reasons for engaging our military using a "global welfare analysis."

He says that for every future intervention, "national decision makers" should weigh the costs and benefits. The new system would necessitate controls that stop nations from waging war for their own benefit. One way this could be achieved is "international law could demand that great powers conclude a war by quickly restoring international stability, maintaining existing national borders, and removing their forces rather than installing a permanent military presence."

Nations are theoretically supposed to get approval from the United Nations before going to war. Modern nations might use military power for self defense; to mitigate damage done by rogue nations; to stop civil wars or genocide; and for other humanitarian reasons.

Yoo believes we need an alternative to the United Nations. With Russia and China sitting on the UN Security Council, veto power has been given to authoritarian nations with which the U.S. has little in common.

What Yoo suggests means undertaking thankless tasks because it is the right thing to do for the global common good.

This is an important and worthwhile book. Yoo encourages readers to think in new ways in order to adjust to a world full of unexpected challenges.

(Oxford University Press, 2014, 259 pp., $36.95)