The run up to the Iraq War in 2003 sparked renewed interest among policy makers and scholars in the strategic and ethical dimensions of preventive war; this interest was deepened by debate in the years since over whether preventive attack against Iran's or North Korea's nuclear infrastructure would be a wise strategy to neutralize these potential threats. Historically, preventive war has been a common strategy for states facing a rival that’s growing in military power, a situation that often generates the temptation to deliver a physical blow against the rival today in order to avoid a more dangerous future. This book confronts the strategic logic of preventive war head on, drawing from 2,500 years of history to warn against the false promise that attacking rising threats will solve the security problems that haunt our visions of the future. The book showcases a paradoxical outcome that has plagued preventive war strategies for millenia, in which operational military success against rising powers in the short term most often creates greater strategic dangers over the long term rather than eliminate them. At the heart of the book is the story of an iconic historical claim that Britain and France missed an opportunity to stop World War II through preventive attack against Germany during the 1936 Rhineland crisis. A sober minded assessment of the European security dilemma in the 1930s opens a window on the enduring flaws inherent to preventive war strategies that have relevance to contemporary foreign policy problems.
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