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World & Current Events > Preemptive vs retaliatory

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments There are two different approaches: passive and aggressive, optimistic and pessimistic, preemptive and retaliatory.
Each 'enjoys' a great deal of criticism.
When something is only a threat, it's always a speculation how real it is.
Is N. Korea likely to strike a US target? We'll have different opinions here. One says US is clearly superior, Kim won't risk annihilation. Another might think - who knows, Kim is not a rational player, he might be a narcissistic young man, surrounded by flattering comrades, who may believe he can challenge America.
Say, Pompeo comes to Trump and says: "we estimate that N. Korea ballistic program will enable them to have a missile capable of reaching LA in two months, they are nuclear, we estimate a 50-50 probability of their striking US". Trump, of course, sends Rex to negotiate, asks Xi and Vlad to exert their influence and watches nicely weekly ballistic tests..
Should he say: "well, I can live with 50-50" or 'maybe - damn, I must reduce the chance of this eventuality to 0"?
And from a historic perspective: wouldn't it have been better to preempt Hitler's attack, or Pearl Harbor?
But on the other hand, Iraq, many argue, is the less successful example for preemptive.
What do you think?


message 2: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments I read that the U.S. has the capability to shoot down a missile in midair. Let's do that next time Kim launches one. He'd think twice about doing again. He certainly doesn't have the capability to shoot down ours.


message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments So, preemption, retaliation or turning the other cheek?


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments I think basic strategy 101 should supply the answer. You ask yourself, what is the long-term goal, then sort out objectives that will get you there if achieved. Then find an objective that you can actually have a chance of achieving, and go after that. The weaker your overall position, the fewer options at your disposal.


message 5: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Nik wrote: "So, preemption, retaliation or turning the other cheek?"

It depends. Sometimes every approach is the right one on any given set of circumstances..


message 6: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments Is that fence you're sitting on comfortable? :-) Just kidding. I see your point. No one approach works all the time. If I had to choose one, though, it would be preemption. Carry a big stick, and people tend to avoid challenging you.


message 7: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Scout wrote: "Is that fence you're sitting on comfortable? :-) Just kidding. I see your point. No one approach works all the time. If I had to choose one, though, it would be preemption. Carry a big stick, and p..."

History teaches when you always swing the big stick, you end up playing whack a mole. 8^)


message 8: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments Really? I'd say history teaches that the big stick has worked to defeat some really bad actors throughout history. Better to play whack a mole than to let them run rampant. You know that quote about “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” How are good men going to do something to avert evil if they're coming from a position of weakness?


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Yes, but if you are running around killing people, maybe you are the bad guy. If it is only your assertion that they are bad, maybe it is you. Suppose you think your neighbour is evil, so to protect yourself you go out and shoot him. Is that right?


message 10: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments If you think bad things about people then you might be a misanthrope, if you kill people you are a psycho or a killer or both. However if someone outspokenly threatens you, then one must consider what to do in self-defense.


message 11: by G.R. (new)

G.R. Paskoff (grpaskoff) | 248 comments Depends on the credibility of the threat. Is it just bluster or does evidence support that they are planning to make good on that threat? We live in a very inter-connected world and as leaders of democracy, extreme actions need to be clearly justified to other world leaders or risk alienating future support. We can't just beat up the school bully because he 'deserved it.'


message 12: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) 1967 - Israeli presumptive strike on Jordan, Egypt and Syria is the only one I can think of as justified given the 3 countries preparations for war

Maybe in certain contexts I might add US response to Cuban missile crisis in terms of blockade

That rules out a whole host of military action since most of which has been retaliatory even if over egged. i.e. Afghanistan was in response to 9/11 even if perpetrators were Saudi


message 13: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Scout wrote: "Really? I'd say history teaches that the big stick has worked to defeat some really bad actors throughout history. Better to play whack a mole than to let them run rampant. You know that quote abou..."

Ever heard of Vietnam?


message 14: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 2919 comments I'm thinking about the Sitzkrieg. Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Then from September 1939 until May 1940 they did practically nothing. French intelligence had worked out the strength and disposition of the German military, almost to the man. They begged Gamelin to attack. They told him over and over that the wehrmacht was on the other side of Germany. They knew that Gamelin would be in Berlin before the Germans could do anything about it. Gamelin sat and waited for the Germans to come to him, and come they did. If there is a just God, then there must be a special place set aside in Hell for Gamelin.

Fate favors the Bold, and history condemns the meek.


message 15: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments Yes. I didn't want to bring up Hitler because everyone does, but would he have been defeated if the U.S. hadn't been thinking preemptively? If they hadn't had a strong military? By "carrying a big stick" I mean that you have the ability to respond to attacks by evil actors, which I think is practical and necessary.


message 16: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) Scout wrote: "Yes. I didn't want to bring up Hitler because everyone does, but would he have been defeated if the U.S. hadn't been thinking preemptively? If they hadn't had a strong military? By "carrying a big ..."

US was ignoring, did not know or did not want to know the picture - 1938 Czechoslovakia crisis and Annexation of Austria. The war started in 1939 with the breach of the Munich agreement demonstrated by Germany and Russia invading Poland despite the assurances given to Chamberlain by Hitler "Peace in our time."

The post World War 1 Versailles Treaty was already breached and that was the opportunity for UK, France and USA to have taken peremptory action.

As J. pointed out, this was original called the phoney war, as the French supported by the British concentrated on reinforcing the defensive lines and there were skirmishes only until late Spring before the horror for the British of Dunkirk in May 1940. This had followed the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France earlier that month. The Polish would not call this period a phoney war.

The USA entered the war only after Pearl harbour on 7th Dec 1941 declaring war against Germany on 11th Dec. That was after Germany had declared war on USA in support of its Japanese allies. Outside of Europe (which many in the USA tried hard to avoid entanglement) the USA did have options for pre-emptive action against Japan. Again isolationism was the plan and the UK and France losing imperial colonies in South East Asia was ignored, as had been earlier invasions of Korea and parts of the then Soviet Union.

Even atrocities like the Nanking massacre 1938 were ignored.

I blame the lack of action not on any politician at the time, but on the wish to avoid a repeat of WWI and the horrors that evolved there. It is a matter for endless debate how much the leaders of the USA knew about these issues at the time but reluctance to get involved had popular support.

Despite the USA not entering WWI until 1918 there was a strong reluctance to get involved in another European War. Instead by not standing up to fascism (Italy, Spain and Germany) worse horrors were to follow. Auschwitz was set up in 1940 and the first Polish prisoners were transported there in June 1940. It was another 18 months before the USA took any direct action and only after Pearl Harbour despite the pleadings of the British and French.


message 17: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Scout wrote: "Yes. I didn't want to bring up Hitler because everyone does, but would he have been defeated if the U.S. hadn't been thinking preemptively? If they hadn't had a strong military? By "carrying a big ..."

Fair enough question. So following your thought. Why did we not attack Russia for taking Crimea from Ukraine? We are certainly more militarily mighty than Russia. As a matter of fact, Russia could not take on NATO. Why not just bomb Iran because there is no reason not too considering they are certainly sponsors of terror?

Just because you have a big stick, it does not always mean it is wise to use it. That was the lesson of Vietnam.

BTW, we do use peremptory attacks in this day an age. Qassem Soleimani is a perfect example. Sometimes its needs to be small in scale. It sent a message.


message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments In my opinion, you should never start a war unless you know how to finish it. Attacking Russia over Crimea would mean a major war with Russia. Sure you can do a lot of damage, but you are not going to control it; it is simply too big, and while the US is technically superior, Russia still has the means to deliver its huge H bombs, and it would if it looked like too much damage had been done.

Again, Iran is a similar problem. How do you finish it? Judging by the success rate at ending Afghanistan, I would say it would not be easy, because Iran is far bigger and the terrain is just as bad, if not worse,


message 19: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments I don't get all this wishy-washy talk. Either you think it's better to be prepared to defend yourself, or you think it's better to be a victim. What the heck? Not a difficult choice.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Being prepared to defend yourself is one thing. Going out and making pre-emptive attacks is another


message 21: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Scout wrote: "I don't get all this wishy-washy talk. Either you think it's better to be prepared to defend yourself, or you think it's better to be a victim. What the heck? Not a difficult choice."

Japan launched a preemptive strike....they lost.

Germany launched a preemptive strike...they lost.

Al Qaeda launched two preemptive strikes....they lost

Egypt and Syria launched a preemptive strike at the same time....they lost.


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments As I recall, the Israelis launched a preemptive strike, knocked out the Egyptian air force, and won militarily. Of course, they have another persistent problem, but it doesn't seem to bother them.

Of the strikes Papaphilly mentions, the al Qaeda won is debatable - it is not clear the US has won, and if the objective was to cause considerable economic cost, maybe they did better than you might think. (I don't think anyone ever imagined they would defeat and occupy the US, but Afghanistan remains a bog and the US is not going to get what it wants - assuming it knows what it wants.) The other ones carry the message - if you are going to launch a preemptive strike, ensure you have the strength to see it through and you know what victory looks like - to you. The other examples failed because they were simply not strong enough. The US vs Iraq is an interesting one - was that a victory or not?


message 23: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments It seems not all are on the same square in the definitions.
Preemptive strike is a defensive action aimed at thwarting an imminent attack or neutralizing a growing peril before its maturity - my definition anyway.
It's different from just an attack or aggression and also different from a retaliatory attack - a response in kind or not for a preceding aggression. A strike may well be preventing war just as it can spark it


message 24: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments A preemptive strike IS an act of war. Whether the other side fights back is irrelevant to that statement, but it can certainly be a reminder who is the stronger. Like in the school playground, when the bully hits someone to get its way, the recipient may accept that if he tries to fight back he will get smashed around more and so not hit back.


message 25: by Nik (last edited Feb 11, 2020 11:32AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Ian wrote: "A preemptive strike IS an act of war. Whether the other side fights back is irrelevant to that statement, but it can certainly be a reminder who is the stronger. Like in the school playground, when..."

Yeah, I guess most would agree that it's not an act of peace. Unfortunately, warring is not something you only read in the books, but it's actually affecting maybe half of the world. Some demonstration, don't know how accurate it may be, as the UK is also colored here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...


message 26: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments What a depressing link :-( My guess is the UK is there (less than a hundred deaths) because of the two who died from that bottle of novichok left lying around


message 27: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Ian wrote: "Of the strikes Papaphilly mentions, the al Qaeda won is debatable - it is not clear the US has won, and if the objective was to cause considerable economic cost, maybe they did better than you might think. (I don't think anyone ever imagined they would defeat and occupy the US, but Afghanistan remains a bog and the US is not going to get what it wants - assuming it knows what it wants)..."

Oh I do not know....I would think being pretty much destroyed and most of your fighters killed in both Al Qaeda and ISIS can count as a loss. They are both low end nuisances now.


message 28: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Nik wrote: "...as the UK is also colored..."

That was the Northern Irish conflict and that was 20 years ago.


message 29: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments al Qaeda has changed its name several times. It is true that bin Laden is gone, and it is true that ISIS was crushed, but ISIS tried to do something it was ill-equipped to do, although in fairness it very nearly took over Syria. But to say they are low end nuisances begs the question, why has the US s many bases in Iraq? The official excuse is they are there to defend against ISIS. Afghanistan is hardly going well, and while the Taliban is not strictly ISIS, it has much the same Wahhabi ideals. In my opinion, claiming victory right now is valid only if you are thinking in terms of defeating the land claims of ISIS. The fighters are almost certainly somewhere, probably in northern Iraq. Some linger on in Idlib, and if they are defeated it will be because of Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia.


message 30: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) Papaphilly wrote: "Nik wrote: "...as the UK is also colored..."

That was the Northern Irish conflict and that was 20 years ago."


Aside from the Salisbury chemical attack as pointed out the main conflict continues to be based around Northern Ireland and since the Good Friday agreement continuing action by dissident republican groups. Much of this is either revenge or crime based. Republican and Loyalist groups have extensive links with criminality for fund raising if nothing else. This ranges from drugs to protectionism or in a recent case shooting of a journalist.


message 31: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Ian wrote: "But to say they are low end nuisances begs the question, why has the US s many bases in Iraq? ..."

That is a fair question and the answer is because it serves U.S. purposes.


message 32: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments I think I got off topic here. I do think that having the military strength to retaliate is necessary if you want to be respected and defend your country and beliefs. Bullies only understand strength, and you don't want to be a victim with no recourse.


message 33: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) Scout wrote: "I think I got off topic here. I do think that having the military strength to retaliate is necessary if you want to be respected and defend your country and beliefs. Bullies only understand strengt..."

Exactly Scout, it is the essence of deterrence policy, the main framework of certainly NATO policy (including USA) since it was formed.

If a potential enemy believes you are too strong they will not attack; however, if they have nothing to lose either then they may seek other means to harm you.


message 34: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Being strong is good. You tend not to get attacked if the potential attacker knows they are going to get beat up.

However, there is also the question of what yu do with that strength. If you end up throwing it around for your own advantage, then the others, even if they know you are stronger, have little option but to try and hurt you back if they don't want to be walked over.


message 35: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments You're saying that you're in favor of retaliation when one is attacked. No one wants to be walked over. I agree.


message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Of course if you are attacked you have the right to retaliate. I see Turkey is complaining the Syrian bombs have killed 30 Turkish troops. I think that is perfectly legal - what are Turkish tanks etc doing rolling through Northern Syria? That is effectively a declaration of war


message 37: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 2919 comments Only being retaliatory guarantees that you will suffer casualties. Isn't it better to try to limit blood loss to the enemy?


message 38: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments To me too, preventing the initial attack is smarter than retaliating. Yeah, the second strike doctrine and all, but not letting the first strike going seems far more important.


message 39: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Yes, but that means you initiate the first strike when there may be an excellent chance there would have been no strike at all. Suppose you and your neighbour don't get along very well. Do you go out and shoot him in case he was going to go out and shoot you?

Just because you have the strongest military does not mean you have to go out and randomly bomb someone or invade them for political reasons. Especially since, if you do have a reason, most of the time you have no good end-game.


message 40: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Of course, it's tricky and should rest on credible intelligence and thought through evaluation of the after effects. Sometimes deterrence suffice, but sometimes pro-activity might become inevitable.
What's better to wait until a gang attempts to rob the bank and maybe endanger hostages or crack on it before they went into action even at the cost of charging them with minor crimes?
Pay attention, self defense definitions usually do not require to be attacked first, but that "the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger": https://dictionary.law.com/Default.as...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-de...
If you try to dress unwarranted aggression into self-defense, it wouldn't hold. However, if your neighbor attempts to make good on his threats and goes your direction menacingly raising a hand with a gun, I guess the best way to deal with it would be to offer him a cup of coffee :)
Stalin had intelligence that Hitler intended to attack him. Yet, he neglected it and paid a heavy toll of almost 30 mln Soviets killed to avert aggression. Not that he cared much. I imagine if he acted first instead, it might've been different.


message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments "Credible intelligence"? Hmm - define credible. Only too many seem to read what they want and believe anything that leads them to do what they were aching to do anyway.

If you see said neighbour coming towards you with a gun, I agree, get armed if you can. You could try warning him off before war gets underway, though.


message 42: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5352 comments I have a license to carry a gun and would only use it preemptively or in self defense. Here's a fact: currently in my state, it's a felony to pull a gun on someone to deter them from attacking you, but it's okay if you shoot them in self defense. So, it's better to shoot someone than to show them a gun and let them walk away. Really? There's a law currently making its way through the legislature to change this.


message 43: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2146 comments Scout wrote: "I have a license to carry a gun and would only use it preemptively or in self defense. Here's a fact: currently in my state, it's a felony to pull a gun on someone to deter them from attacking you,..."

Letting them walk away means they find another victim who won't be so lucky...maybe that encounter results in an innocent person getting killed for a cell phone. Perhaps the rationale was that if you kill them in self defense, you're preventing the tragedy that will likely unfold later...and since you're not law enforcement, that pesky Constitution doesn't get in the way...


message 44: by Papaphilly (last edited Mar 10, 2020 03:07PM) (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Scout wrote: "I have a license to carry a gun and would only use it preemptively or in self defense. Here's a fact: currently in my state, it's a felony to pull a gun on someone to deter them from attacking you,..."

Oddly, it make perfect sense. In the showing the gun, it is an act of aggression. In shooting of self defense, it a reflexive action for protection. It is counterintuitive because you are really trying to repel an attack. The difference is that one is an attack and the other may be seen as a potential. The problem with the showing of the gun is that if you are mistaken and the other guy has a gun he has the right to defend himself and you took an aggressive action toward his life safety.


message 45: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments From which we see the danger in the widespread distribution of guns.


message 46: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 2919 comments As opposed to the danger of only having a few with guns?


message 47: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Ian wrote: "From which we see the danger in the widespread distribution of guns."

What danger?


message 48: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments Papaphilly wrote: "Ian wrote: "From which we see the danger in the widespread distribution of guns."

What danger?"


Somebody feels frightened, pulls a gun. Other guy would never have hurt, but sees gun and in self-defence shoot first person.


message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9520 comments J. wrote: "As opposed to the danger of only having a few with guns?"

A lot of other countries have most citizens without guns and there are a lot fewer gun deaths, and fewer deaths from violence. The US certainly leads the statistics in gun-related deaths per unit population.


message 50: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 2743 comments Ian wrote: "J. wrote: "As opposed to the danger of only having a few with guns?"

A lot of other countries have most citizens without guns and there are a lot fewer gun deaths, and fewer deaths from violence. ..."


There are well over 310 million guns in the United States with a population of about 330 million. There are about 16,000 homicides a year, which has been on the decrease since a high of 1993. There are also about 2.5 million crimes committed with a gun.

So let us do the math.

Chances of being the victim of a crime caused by a gun .0008%

Chances of being murdered by a gun .00005%

So to give just a bit of perspective

There are 287 million vehicles in the United States with about 37,000 fatalities per year.

Chances of dying in an auto death .00012%

You are more likely to die from a traffic accident than a gun homicide.

I do not see any great push to get rid of vehicles and they are more dangerous to the health.

So of the 310,000,000 million guns with 2,500,000 gun crimes included, that leaves 309,750,000 with no tie to crime at all. That is about 99.92% of all guns.

BTW, this does not account for any military or police weapons, just private ownership.

So once again, what danger?


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