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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Issue 44

Preemptive Strikes and Preventive Wars
Background Essay
Background Essay

Preemptive Strike Or Preventive War?

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

With the troubles bubbling over on the Korean Peninsula, as the North Korean regime approaches possession of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of striking the United States, two words, preemptive and preventive, have gained increasing currency. While similar in meaning, their context is crucial in understanding their applicability to the current crisis. And here, as is so often the case, history is a useful tool in thinking through the possibilities. 

Featured Commentary
Featured Commentary

Preemptive Strikes and Preventive Wars: A Historian’s Perspective

by Barry Strauss via Strategika
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Preventive wars and preemptive strikes are both risky business. A preventive war is a military, diplomatic, and strategic endeavor, aimed at an enemy whom one expects to grow so strong that delay would cause defeat. A preemptive strike is a military operation or series of operations to preempt an enemy’s ability to attack you. In both cases, a government judges a diplomatic solution impossible.

Featured Commentary

Calculating The Risk Of Preventive War

by Max Bootvia Strategika
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The issue of “preemptive” war is more in the news now than at any time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The impetus, of course, is the rapid development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which will soon give Pyongyang the capability to hit any American city with a nuclear-tipped ICBM. President Trump has been threatening “fire and fury” in response, and warning that the United States is “locked and loaded” for war. 

E.g., 9 / 26 / 2017
E.g., 9 / 26 / 2017
Poster Collection, US 4642, Hoover Institution Archives.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Issue 16

What will be the immediate strategic repercussions, if any, of the scheduled radical pruning of the size of the American military?
Harold Melvin Agnew Motion Picture Film, Hoover Institution Archives.
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Issue 15

Should more of our European or Pacific democratic allies possess nuclear weapons?
Okhrana Records, Box 237, Hoover Institution Archives.
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Issue 14

Are 20th-century-style conventional military assets and strategies still relevant, or are they being replaced by drones, cyber-warfare, counterinsurgency, and satellite technologies?
Poster Collection, RU/SU 2165, Hoover Institution Archives
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Issue 13

Can or should the West try to stop Vladimir Putin's attempts to reabsorb portions of the old Soviet Union?

Background Essay

by Kori Schake Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article

Featured Commentary

by Ralph Peters Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article
by Thomas Donnelly Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article

Related Commentary

by Kiron K. Skinner Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article
by Paul R. Gregory Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article
by Victor Davis Hanson Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article
by Angelo M. Codevilla Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article
by Peter R. Mansoor Tuesday, April 1, 2014
article

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Related Commentary

Iran Without Nuclear Weapons: We Can Only Hope

by Barry Strauss via Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

History suggests three ways to prevent a state that has the capacity of going nuclear from exercising that option. The first is a security guarantee in exchange for denuclearization. The former Soviet republic of Ukraine took this route in 1994, when it gave up its extensive nuclear stockpile and jointed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty upon a promise of respect for its territorial integrity from the United States, Britain, and Russia. 

Related Commentary

Reasons For Confidence In The Iran Deal

by Kori Schakevia Hoover Daily Report
Friday, May 27, 2016

There are historical precedents to justify current American confidence that the treaty with Iran will prevent it from going nuclear. In fact, Iran itself provides the most important precedents. Three factors have in the past caused Iran to curtail its nuclear weapons programs: high likelihood of exposure, belief the United States would destroy their weapons programs, and fear that military conflict with the United States would result in regime change in Iran.

Related Commentary

History Suggests the Iran Deal’s Chances for Success Are Slim

by Williamson Murrayvia Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

Unfortunately, there is little in the historical record to suggest that the current agreement with Iran that Secretary of State Kerry has recently concluded will in fact to do anything to prevent the Iranians from going nuclear when it suits their convenience and view of their strategic interests. For the moment, they will undoubtedly lie low and use the agreement to dismantle the sanctions that have represented such a major impediment to the successful functioning of their economy. 

Related Commentary

The Iran Deal Offers Little Hope for Optimism

by Peter R. Mansoorvia Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

On April 2, 2015, President Barrack Obama stepped to the microphone in the White House Rose Garden and declared, “Today, the United States—together with our allies and partners—has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Regrettably, history provides little comfort that the accord will prevent a determined Tehran from acquiring the bomb. 

Featured Commentary

A Year After the Iranian Deal

by Victor Davis Hansonvia Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

The July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to limit Iranian nuclear proliferation is now nearly a year old. Until recently, the urgency to complete the “Iran deal” had been explained by the Obama administration as an effort to capitalize on a new group of Iranian reformers who came to power with President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013.

Background Essay

Iran: The Contrast Between Sovereignty And Moral Legitimacy

by Thomas Donnellyvia Strategika
Friday, May 27, 2016

In June of 2014, as the forces of the Islamic State swept toward Baghdad, President Barack Obama began to recommit American military forces to Iraq. He also observed that “Iran can play a constructive role, if it sends the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it is inclusive.” 

Strategika: “Military Readiness In An Age Of Uncertainty,” With Thomas Donnelly

interview with Thomas Donnellyvia Strategika
Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the US ready for global threats?

Strategika: “Military Readiness: The Admiral’s Perspective” With James Ellis

interview with James O. Ellis Jr. via Strategika
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How the Armed Forces prepare for an unpredictable world.

Related Commentary

China as a Cause of Concern

by Miles Maochun Yuvia Strategika
Friday, April 29, 2016

China’s financial clout is enormous, not because of China’s economic productivity, but because of China’s uniquely unchallenged economic system that places the entire world in a disadvantageous position, vulnerable to Chinese exploitation.

Related Commentary

Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

by Bing West via Strategika
Friday, April 29, 2016

Since Vietnam, American technological advances have swept military competition. Today, no nation can stand up against us in industrial warfare. That is, if the battle is decided by the 20th-century means of supplies and manpower, both dependent upon the internal combustion engine, any opposing force will be defeated swiftly and with low American casualties.

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The Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict strives to reaffirm the Hoover Institution's dedication to historical research in light of contemporary challenges, and in particular, reinvigorating the national study of military history as an asset to foster and enhance our national security. Read more.

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Strategika is an online journal that analyzes ongoing issues of national security in light of conflicts of the past—the efforts of the Military History Working Group of historians, analysts, and military personnel focusing on military history and contemporary conflict.

Our board of scholars shares no ideological consensus other than a general acknowledgment that human nature is largely unchanging. Consequently, the study of past wars can offer us tragic guidance about present conflicts—a preferable approach to the more popular therapeutic assumption that contemporary efforts to ensure the perfectibility of mankind eventually will lead to eternal peace. New technologies, methodologies, and protocols come and go; the larger tactical and strategic assumptions that guide them remain mostly the same—a fact discernable only through the study of history.

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The opinions expressed in Strategika are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hoover Institution or Stanford University.