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Preventive War against Iraq

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With the clouds of war gathering over Iraq, several long standing guides to U.S. defense policy, especially about when to go to war, have become the first casualties in the effort to end the threat posed by the regime in Baghdad. For nearly sixty years, U.S. officials have relied on the concept of deterrence as the cornerstone of U.S. defense policy. The nation went to war when it had either been attacked Pearl Harbor or when its vital interests were at stake Korea, the Gulf War. Indeed, many believe that when it deviated from this practice in places like Vietnam, the results were disastrous. Today, however, a new guide to action is emerging. With Iraq as the target, the Bush administration is poised to use force to head off dire threats before they emerge fully by using preventive war as a tool to manage an increasingly chaotic international environment. Preventive motivation for war is based on the belief that war with a particular adversary is inevitable. Once conflict is viewed as inevitable, policymakers must make one of the most difficult and horrific diplomatic decisions in international relations. They have to make military and political judgments about the level of risk the nation is prepared to accept and decide whether it is better to fight now while the costs are relatively low, or wait and possibly confront a more dangerous adversary. In the past, circumstances mercifully discouraged the emergence of preventive motivations for war, although the idea was raised in the late 1940s as a way to deal with the Soviets. For most of the Cold War, the United States lacked the capability to defeat the Soviet Union at an acceptable cost, and instead banked on deterrence and the related policy of containment to create a situation that would lead to the mellowing of Soviet power. But today, the proliferation of small chemical, biological or even nuclear arsenals creates a preventive motivation for war.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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