Striking First

Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Striking First
    Book Description:

    RAND Project AIR FORCE studied the post-9/11 shift in U.S. defense policy emphasis toward preemptive and preventive attack, asking under what conditions preemptive or preventive attack is worth considering as a response to perceived threats. It considered the role such first-strike strategies are likely to play in future U.S. national security policy. Finally, it identified implications these conclusions have for military planners and policymakers as they prepare to deal with national security threats in the next decade.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4095-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures and Table
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Summary
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. Glossary
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attacks
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the months following the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the United States progressively recast its national security policy. Probably the single most prominent feature of this process, and certainly the one that produced the most debate, was the decision to place dramatically greater emphasis on “preemption”: defending oneself by attacking an enemy before it strikes, instead of seeking to deter attacks or striking back if deterrence fails.²

    The United States has considered striking first as a response to security threats in the past,³ though it has done so quietly and has rarely carried...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The Best Defense? When and Why States Strike First
    (pp. 19-42)

    Although it has always been understood that the United States might strike first in order to blunt or foil an imminent attack, the recently declared American policy of striking first states that U.S. leaders will not necessarily wait until a threat becomes imminent to use force against it. Thus, what is new about the “preemption” doctrine first promulgated in 2001–2002 is not the promise to preempt imminent threats, but the judgment that protecting U.S. national security may require launching preventive attacks. The distinction between preemption and prevention is important, not least—but also not only—because the international community...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Attacking in Self-Defense: Legality and Legitimacy of Striking First
    (pp. 43-90)

    In the months following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. leaders’ statements about their inclination to launch anticipatory attacks in response to security threats greatly intensified debates about the legality and legitimacy of using force against adversaries who have not yet initiated hostilities. This chapter examines these issues, not only because of their intrinsic importance, but also to better understand the circumstances under which leaders are more or less likely to opt for preemptive or preventive attack, since the legal and political interpretations of such strategies are an important factor in estimating their costs and benefits.

    The United States...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Preemptive and Preventive Strategies in Future U.S. National Security Policy: Prospects and Implications
    (pp. 91-120)

    Exactly what role preemptive and preventive attacks will play in American foreign policy in the coming decade and beyond is uncertain, most of all because the emergence and development of the threats to which they might be used as a response cannot be predicted precisely. However, examining the theory, practice, and consequences of anticipatory attack, along with past and present U.S. declaratory security policy, does point toward a range of reasonable expectations upon which to base future defense planning. This chapter addresses the prospects for and implications of U.S. first strikes in the near to medium term on two levels:...

  12. APPENDIX A U.S. Preventive Attack Cases
    (pp. 121-188)
  13. APPENDIX B Israeli Preemptive and Preventive Attack Cases
    (pp. 189-218)
  14. APPENDIX C Counterterrorist Anticipatory Attack Cases
    (pp. 219-266)
  15. APPENDIX D NSS Statements on Preemptive and Preventive Attack
    (pp. 267-270)
  16. References
    (pp. 271-312)