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Posted on Apr 25, 2006 in Front Page Features, War College

The Strategy of Preventative War and Counter-Terror

By Dennis W. Lid

The aftermath of employing the new national strategy could be a wide range of anticipated and of unexpected consequences. It is possible that the new strategy could result in the neutralization of rogue states or the thwarting of terrorist acts and, thereby, be successful in achieving its purpose. It is equally possible that the new strategy could be unsuccessful and fail to accomplish its objective.

Successful or not, employment of the new strategy might send the wrong signal to the international community and cause uncertainty, suspicion and distrust. It would probably be a bad example and set the wrong precedent for other nations to follow. Misinterpretation of motives and intentions of those nations daring to employ the new strategy would abound. Such nations would be both feared and hated; mistrust would prevail. Once sown, these seeds of doubt and division could well lead to a counter-movement of opposition in the form of a “Jihad” or to the ultimate catastrophe of “Armageddon” – an extreme but distinct possibility. To use or not to use the new strategy is the most critical question. Once the strategy is initiated, the “Pandora’s Box” of unknown consequences is opened releasing its poison. It can only be hoped that there is an antidote for all that flows forth.
Ultimately, we must ask ourselves if this new strategy of preventive war and pre-emptive strike is the best we can do by way of a national strategy. It would seem that the strategy is at least half right in that employment of preemptive strike is the best way to counter terror. It is both morally and legally justifiable to prevent the crime of terror through proactive preemptive strike. On the other hand, the launching of a preventive war against a sovereign nation could only be morally and legally justifiable as a last resort if there is sufficient provocation in the form of immediate danger and imminent threat to a people or nation by a would-be aggressor who, beyond a doubt, intends to commit an act of aggression. Moreover, a consensus of the community of nations would be desirable prior to launching the preventive war. This would ensure that it is a last resort defensive measure. That being said, is there any better national strategy to be followed other than that of preventive war and preemptive strike? Perhaps we should consider an alternative.

What other strategy would be a better replacement? Possibly a strategy of “proactive investiture, imposition, divergence and direction” might be developed and adopted. This strategy is tantamount to that of friendly persuasion laced with positive incentives (rewards) and enticements (bribes) that cover and adorn the imposition of one nation’s will over another nation or group through diverting and redirecting the subordinated nation’s or group’s will and efforts to comply with the will of the imposing nation. The motivation for all concerned nations and groups is the improvement of their present condition, the desire to continue to improve the situation for all concerned, and the avoidance of any detrimental effects such as a degradation of the present condition through war or terror. In other words, use a strategy of “beans rather than bullets,” of providing resources, aid, and assistance for concessions and change rather than the threat of war or terror to induce compliance with established or agreed to norms of behavior.


It sounds like a feasible alternative national strategy. Yet, man being the concupiscent creature that he is will undoubtedly fall victim to the last resort means of influence before changing his ways. We as individuals, groups and nations are not yet unselfish and loving enough to change for the better without the promise of reward or the fear of punishment as incentives.

And so, our proposed alternate national strategy is insufficient without the final threat of force for non-compliance with established norms of behavior. Such force, of course, is called war…preventive or otherwise. So, let the new national strategy of the Bush Administration stand minus the “preventive” war appellation.


First strike or preemptive strike to counter terror is legal and moral; preventive war against sovereign nations, however is not, except under the most stringent conditions previously mentioned.

About the Author

Major (retired) Dennis W. Lid served in the U.S. Army for 21 years in the Infantry, Airborne, and Special Forces. Following that, he served for 19 years in the civil service in the U.S. and Japan. Previously published in several online and offline publications around the world.

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