The Implications of Preemptive and Preventive War Doctrines: A Reconsideration
ARMY WAR COLL STRATEGIC STUDIES INST CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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Preemption has been, and remains, a leading concept of this decade. But despite its ubiquity in public discourse and its policy relevance, it is a source of great confusion. The term is misused, in some cases deliberately one suspects, but it must be admitted that strategic theorists have offered very little worthwhile reading on the subject. This monograph clarifies the meaning of preemption and distinguishes it from prevention and precaution. It critically reviews the principal charges leveled against preventive warfare and uses that analysis to provide at least the bare bones of strategic theory, more strictly of an alternative to theory relevant to such warfare. The analysis concludes with a set of policy and strategy relevant implications for the United States. Preemption is not controversial legally, morally, or strategically. To preempt means to strike first or attempt to do so in the face of an attack that is either already underway or is very credibly imminent. The decision for war has been taken by the enemy. The victim or target state can try to disrupt the unfolding assault, or may elect to receive the attack before reacting. In truth, military preemption will not always be feasible.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics