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Striking first: preemptive and preventive attack in U.S. national security policy

Striking first: preemptive and preventive attack in U.S. national security policy

Mueller, Karl P

Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, U.S. leaders recast the national security strategy to place greater emphasis on the threats posed by terrorists and by states from which they might acquire weapons of mass destruction, and announced that in the future the United States would take advantage of opportunities to strike at potential adversaries before they attacked. RAND Project Air Force examined the nature and implications of this doctrine of striking first. This study focused on three central questions: First, under what conditions is preemptive or preventive attack worth considering or pursuing as a response to perceived security threats? Second, what role should such strategies be expected to play in future U.S. national security policy? Finally, what implications do these conclusions have for planners and policymakers in the U.S. Air Force and the other armed services as they design military capabilities and strategies to deal with national security threats in the next decade? The study concluded preparing for such operations should not be a key driver for change in U.S. military capabilities because large-scale U.S. first strike will be infrequent and present few unique operational military requirements, although the intelligence requirements for these strategies are highly demanding. Planners should also recognize that this doctrine may affect the types of threats posed against U.S. forces and interests by potential adversaries

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English. Electronic books.
Published Santa Monica, CA : RAND Project Air Force 2006

This resource is available electronically from the following locations


Statement of responsibility: Karl P. Mueller [and others]
ISBN: 0833038818, 0833040901, 0833040952, 9780833038814, 9780833040909, 9780833040954
Note: Includes bibliographical references (pages 271-311).
Note: Print version record.
Physical Description: 1 online resource (xxxi, 311 pages).
Series: Rand Corporation monograph series
Subject: POLITICAL SCIENCE International Relations General.; United States Defenses.; HISTORY Military Other.; Military readiness.; Military policy.; Preemptive attack (Military science); TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING Military Science.; United States.; United States Military policy.; National security United States.; National security.
Series Title: Rand Corporation monograph series.
Local note: JSTOR Books at JSTOR Open Access


  1. Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attacks
  2. The Best Defense? When and Why States Strike First
  3. Attacking in Self-Defense: Legality and Legitimacy of Striking First
  4. Preemptive and Preventive Strategies in Future U.S. National Security Policy: Prospects and Implications
  5. Apendix A: U.S. Preventive Attack Cases
  6. Appendix B: Israeli Preemptive and Preventive Attack Cases
  7. Appendix C: Counterterrorist Anticipatory Attack Cases
  8. Appendix D: NSS Statements on Preemptive and Preventive Attack.