June 9, 2013

Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09

Page 22

Preemptive Use of Force: the Churchill Experience and the Bush Doctrine

By David Jablonsky

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City

2022 International Churchill Conference

Join us at the National WWI Museum for the 39th International Churchill Conference. Kansas City, October 6-8, 2022

Col. Jablonsky, USA (ret.), a Churchill Centre academic adviser, is a Distringuished Fellow of the U.S Army War College where he was Professor of National Security Affairs. He is the author of five books dealing with European history and international relations, including Churchill, the Great Game and Total War.

This idea of not irritating the enemy did not commend itself to me.… Good, decent, civilised people, it appeared, must never themselves strike till after they have been struck dead.” —WSC, The Gathering Storm, 1948

“The Rhineland crisis was a sufficient basis, Churchill believed, to provide domestic and international legitimacy for the preventive use of force….At the same time, based on his experiences in the Cold War, Churchill would acknowledge how problematic deterrence is as a tool in preventing a nation from acquiring nuclear capability.

Winston Churchill died in 1965. The so-called Bush Doctrine was born in 2002 in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. The most controversial part of the doctrine involved a new approach to the use of force under unprecedented circumstances dealing with events that seem a quantum leap from the issues that Churchill addressed in his lifetime. Nevertheless, the insights Churchill developed in his long career offer a basis, however conjectural, for discussion of the type of judgment and advice he might offer on the nature of the use of force outlined in the Bush Doctrine.


A new precept on the use of force evolved in a series of speeches by President Bush in the wake of 9/11. The emerging declaratory policy was brought together in the September 2002 National Security Strategy and was then reaffirmed in the next iteration of the document in March 2006.1 A major component of the threat outlined in the 2002 strategy was that “traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose…so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness.” Nor were the concepts necessarily effective against rogue states, since deterrence “based only upon the threat of retaliation” was less likely to work against leaders of such states, who were “more willing to take risks of gambling with the lives of their people and the wealth of their nations.”

As a consequence, and given the potential for catastrophic terrorism, the document proposed adopting “the concept of imminent threat to capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries,” because America “cannot let our enemies strike first.” The idea was elaborated more graphically that same month by the President’s National Security Adviser, who stated that “we don’t want the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud.”2 To forestall such attacks, the administration declared that while “the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively….”3

Criticism of the new doctrine’s approach to the use of force was not long forthcoming, particularly after the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.4 One major issue was the conflation by the administration of preemptive with preventive use of force. The Pentagon defines the preemptive use of force as an “attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent.” Preventive use of force, on the other hand, is “initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve great risk.”5

Thus, although the Bush Doctrine presents the argument for acting preemptively, if necessary, it actually moves from imminent threat to the concern with inevitable threat that is the basis for the preventive use of force. The greater the threat, the 2002 National Security Strategy concluded, “the…more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack.”6

The problem cited by critics of the Bush Doctrine is that the preventive use of force has no legal sanction, since it is responding to a “threat” that is neither certain nor imminent and is based on an assumption of inevitable hostility and the perceived need to strike before the military balance becomes less favorable. By expanding the right of self-defense to include the preventive use of force against threats from terrorists and rogue states before, in the President’s words, they are “fully formed,” the doctrine constitutes a major departure from internationally agreed rules under the United Nations (UN).7 That organization limits the use of force to self-defense against an armed attack as defined in Article 51 of the UN Charter or to military actions authorized by the UN Security Council under Chapter 7 of the Charter.

In response to the Bush Doctrine, the UN Secretary-General appointed a high-level panel, which concluded that states have the right to defend themselves not only against actual threats, but imminent ones as well. It also determined that the preventive use of force might be appropriate to deal with such latent threats as weapons proliferation and terrorism, but only if authorized by the UN Security Council. As for the concept of a unilateral state decision to exercise the preventive use of force implicit in what the Bush administration labeled anticipatory self-defense, the panel concluded that it would result in international anarchy: “Allowing one to so act is to allow all.”8


It is reasonable to suppose that Churchill would understand the dilemmas associated with the Bush Doctrine. To begin with, he was familiar with both pre-emptive and preventive use of force. On 3 July 1940, he ordered a preemptive strike against the Vichy French fleet anchored in Oran, which killed 1299 French sailors.

Vichy was nominally independent, and Churchill lacked proof that Admiral Darlan, the Vichy Minister of War, intended to turn his fleet over to the Nazi regime. But after the fall of the French Premier Paul Reynaud on 17 June, Darlan refused to send the ships to British, American or French colonial harbors. For Churchill the threat was imminent. “The addition of the French Navy to the German and Italian fleets, with the menace of Japan measureless upon the horizon,” he wrote, “confronted Great Britain with mortal dangers….It was Greek tragedy. But no act was ever more necessary for the life of Britain….”9 The “hateful decision” against a former ally took immense courage. It would have been far easier, in Roy Jenkins’ estimation, “to have let sleeping ships lie, and [to have] hoped vaguely for the best.”10

As for the preventive use of force, Churchill was aware that British doctrine for centuries had been based on the idea that a single power should not be allowed to dominate the European continent. Thus, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), fought to prevent the union of the French and Spanish kingdoms, was a preventive war. The conflict did not begin with an attack on Britain. But as Churchill chronicled in Marlborough, if Britain in alliance with Holland and the Austrian Empire had not declared war and allowed the two countries to unite, the “widest empire in the world” would have added its resources to France’s: “with Spain not only the Indies, South America and the whole of Italy, but the cockpit of Europe—Belgium and Luxembourg.”11

Churchill also understood that the preventive use of force required both domestic and international legitimacy. He may not have been aware of the problems that German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had in the 1880s with his senior General Staff officers, who were clamoring for preventive war against France before that country increased in military might. The German statesman’s reply at the time was that preventive war was like committing suicide to keep from dying.

But by 1911, long after Bismarck had left the scene, Churchill certainly realized that the military strategists were dominating the policy makers in Berlin with the von Schlieffen Plan, that blunt either-or instrument of preventive war that would bring about the first total conflict of the 20th century. Germany “had long and deliberately committed herself” to the invasion of France, an extremely hazardous preventive use of force, Churchill concluded, “flying in the face of world opinion, openly assuming the role of the aggressor….”12

Churchill returned to the preventive use of force in the 1930s after the rise of Adolf Hitler to power. The major lesson for him from this period was that the West had waited too long to stand up to Nazi Germany and that, in fact, appeasement prevented dealing with that threat while it was manageable. As a consequence, World War II was “the unnecessary war,” and the theme of the first volume in his history of that conflict was focused on the preventive use of force:



Churchill’s theme was based on the traditional British argument that dangers had to be dealt with before they grew larger—an argument to which he returned after Germany occupied the Rhineland (previous article).

For four hundred years the foreign policy of England has been to oppose the strongest, most aggressive, most dominating Power on the Continent….I know of nothing which has occurred to alter or weaken the justice, wisdom, valour, and prudence upon which our ancestors acted. I know of nothing that has happened to human nature which in the slightest degree alters the validity of their conclusions.14

The Rhineland crisis was one of a series of Hitler’s “March surprises” throughout the 1930s, consistently in violation of the Versailles Treaty, a sufficient basis, Churchill believed, to provide domestic and international legitimacy for the preventive use of force. British appeasers considered Nazi Germany to be just a revisionist power seeking to overturn the 1919 agreement. Churchill maintained that any faults in that treaty did not render Germany morally equal to the democracies; neither did it provide justification for Hitler’s use of force. This applied even more to the Rhineland crisis, he pointed out, since the German action violated the Locarno agreement as well as the Versailles treaty. Moreover, he also understood that the correlation of forces in March 1936 was quantifiably against Germany, as Hitler was well aware. “We had no army worth mentioning,” the Nazi leader recalled later; “at that time, it would not even have had the fighting strength to maintain itself against the Poles.”15

Throughout the remainder of the decade as Europe stumbled toward war, Churchill’s championing of preventive force took on increasingly frustrated tones. In October 1938, he abstained from voting on a motion to approve the results of the recent Munich conference, which he called “a total and unmitigated defeat,” as “silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness.” Referring to the reign of King Ethelred the Unready, who squandered the strong position Britain had gained under the descendents of King Alfred, the British statesman lamented “all the opportunities of arresting the growth of the Nazi Power which have been thrown away….”16

In a similar manner, Churchill’s frustration was almost palpable when he addressed the 31 March 1939 British guarantee to Poland almost a decade later in his memoirs of World War II. “[I]f you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed,” he wrote; “if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.”17

That moment came later, as W.H. Auden noted (from the safety of his New York refuge). Britain was the only actor in a “low dishonest decade”:

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.18


Based on his interwar experiences, Churchill would appreciate in this new century how difficult the preventive use of force is politically. The very nature of such use often means that there is ambiguous evidence or intelligence and that, as a consequence, there will be countervailing arguments. This was the case with his failure in the appeasement decade to garner domestic legitimacy by linking German capabilities with intentions until Hitler’s actions could leave no doubt.

Thus, even if he had succeeded, and Britain and France had gone to war with Germany before 1939, much of the public might have believed it to be an unnecessary conflict. “We know,” one analyst has concluded, “given the nature of academics, that had the democracies heeded Churchill’s advice, generations of ungrateful professors would still be writing tomes complaining about preventive war and exonerating Hitler as a legitimate folk nationalist.”19

Moreover, in an increasingly interdependent world threatened by terrorists with a global reach and by weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Churchill, who always was conscious of the link between changes in technology and means of war, would probably agree that the distinction between an imminent threat and a latent one has lost much of its relevance. Certainly the nuclear equation would play an important role in the British statesman’s approach. As he knew, preventive action against nascent nuclear adversaries had been contemplated by governments in the Cold War.

In 1948, while the United States enjoyed a nuclear monopoly, Churchill recommended that the Truman Administration threaten the use of atomic weapons if Stalin refused to withdraw Soviet troops from Berlin and East Germany. His view, the American ambassador to Britain reported, was “that when and if the Soviet [sic] develop the Atomic bomb, war will become a certainty.”20

By 1954, in his last full year as Prime Minister, Churchill had retreated considerably from this position. The Soviets had broken the American nuclear monopoly in 1949, and the 1 March 1954 U.S. detonation of a huge thermonuclear device at Bikini demonstrated that the bombs were becoming infinitely more powerful, even to the extent of obliterating small islands. “You can imagine what my thoughts are about London,” he wrote President Eisenhower.21

By then, preventive first strike attacks were emerging as staples of U.S. and Soviet nuclear doctrine, influencing the development of the strategic triad and counterforce capabilities. The Truman administration had considered, then rejected, the option of preventive war against the Soviets in its 1950 National Security Strategy (NSC 68).

Nevertheless, the massive buildup of U.S. military power during the Korean War was designed to support a policy of forcing the nuclear issue with the Soviets before it was too late—“to lay the basis,” as the author of NSC 68 described it, “for taking increased risks of general war in achieving a satisfactory solution of our relations with the USSR while her stockpile of atomic weapons was still small.”22 Both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy seriously considered preventive action to keep the Soviet Union and then Communist China from establishing a substantial nuclear capability. At one point early in his administration, as he contemplated the cost for the U.S. to remain “constantly ready” in the Cold War, Eisenhower wondered “whether or not our duty to future generations did not require us to initiate war at the most propitious moment that we could designate.”23

From all these experiences, Churchill would understand why legitimacy for the use of force against terrorism and rogue states is still appropriate in situations that clearly come under Article 51 of the UN Charter for retaliatory action, such as the invasion of Afghanistan; and why legitimacy claims are less credible with preemptive force and weakest when force is used for preventive objectives such as regime change. The paradox is the same that Churchill faced in the 1930s. Preventive use of force is likely to be most effective, but also to be perceived as least legitimate; and when force is perceived as most legitimate, there are the greatest questions concerning its efficacy.

Churchill also understood why the procedural legitimacy of the UN was desirable for the use of force, just as it had been with the League of Nations. In the new century, however, he would recognize that the UN system of his era is not well-equipped to deal with the new threats.

There are two principles that evolved on his watch as the basis for the use of force in the UN Charter. The first was that states are sovereign and equal; the second is that states should not interfere in the internal affairs of other states. But new actors ranging from terrorists and nuclear technology traffickers to international criminal cartels now have nothing to do with sovereignty—except to erode that legal doctrine. Many failed or failing states are simply not strong enough to resist such inroads, or to control actions within their own borders. “The events of September 11, 2001,” the President stated, “taught us that weak states…compose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states.”24


Churchill might begin a critique of the Bush Doctrine by acknowledging that the use of force is part of a panoply of options in the National Security Strategy ranging from non-proliferation to global economic growth. But given his experiences, it is not far-fetched to conjecture that he would question a fundamental assumption of the doctrine that deterrence would not work against terrorist or rogue states.

As a young officer on India’s northwest frontier with Afghanistan, and in the Sudan, Churchill was very much aware that deterrence was an integral part of what the British War Office termed “small wars” on the periphery of the Empire. “For it might be well also to remember,” Churchill reminded the readers of The Story of the Malakand Field Force, “that the great drama of frontier war is played before a vast, silent but attentive audience, who fill a theater that reaches from Peshawar to Colombo and from Karachi to Rangoon.”25

However, based on his experiences in the Cold War, Churchill would acknowledge how problematic deterrence is as a tool in preventing a nation from acquiring nuclear capability. Moreover, he would likely admit that the concept of deterrence has grown more complex in dealing with catastrophic nuclear terrorism by groups or individuals outside the bounds of normal means-ends instrumental rationality. But he would also understand, from dealing with developments at the dawn of the atomic age, that it is virtually impossible for individuals or groups to create nuclear material, since producing plutonium or enriching uranium requires a large and scientifically knowledgeable labor force as well as significant industrial resources. Consequently, states or sub-state military or scientific organizations will have to be involved tacitly or overtly in providing nuclear material to terrorist groups.

This would likely mean for Churchill that even if the West is unable to deter terrorists, there are incentives that can be created for these other actors to prevent terrorist acquisition of nuclear materials. Moreover, improvements in nuclear forensics, by enhancing the ability to give a home address for any nuclear device, have the potential to improve the basis for deterrence strategies against any rogue states that might assist terrorists for a nuclear attack.

Leaders of such states can often seem irrational in their dealings with other international actors. But as Churchill understood from the British experience with Hitler, such displays in many cases are nothing more than rational combinations of fanaticism and calculation. The Nazi leader, for example, often played up his reputation as a Teppichfresser, a “rug chewer,” given to ungovernable rages. At no time was this calculated irrationality better illustrated than on 23 August 1939, when the British ambassador presented him a note from Prime Minister Chamberlain indicating Britain’s readiness to honor its Polish guarantees, while holding out hope for negotiations.

Hitler responded by working himself into a frenzy, launching a violent tirade against the British. “To all appearance,” the historian Allan Bullock noted, “Hitler was a man whom anger had drawn beyond the reach of rational agreement.” And yet, as one German official recorded that day: “Hardly had the door shut behind the Ambassador than Hitler slapped himself on the thigh, laughed and said: ‘Chamberlain won’t survive that conversation; his Cabinet will fall this evening.’”26

So it is reasonable to suppose that Churchill would encourage efforts to improve deterrence of rogue states. He would undoubtedly agree that Bush was correct to identify a catastrophic nuclear 9/11 as the most dangerous threat to U.S. national security, and that the doctrine provides a useful service as a catalyst for reexamining the use of force against this threat. But he would also agree with critics that the Bush National Security Strategy, in responding to this threat, has unnecessarily confused the issue by conflating preemptive and preventive use of force in its brief presentation of the subject.

Equally, Churchill would likely understand why some object to the tone of unilateralism in the Bush Doctrine, with its implicit motivation being the difficulty in getting consensus for the use of force against inevitable threats. He would acknowledge the doctrine’s focus on strengthening alliances and developing agendas for cooperative action. But he would also question the extreme articulation in the strategy document concerning the legitimacy of unilateral action—an unnecessary reference that could detract from the role of government in recruiting allies, a vital mission for him in the two total wars of the 20th century.

In any event, he might point out that unilateralism is not the only alternative to the UN Security Council, even while cautioning that in many cases there is a false dichotomy between multilateral paralysis and unilateral U.S. action when it comes to the use of force. He, of course, would recognize the primacy of national interests in ultimately determining America’s approach to the use of force.

The UN, like the League of Nations, had always been a useful adjunct for Churchill, but not a substitute for traditional realist balance-of-power diplomacy. From this perspective in the wake of World War II, he had acknowledged America’s hegemony in the West, a dominance muted deliberately by the U.S. involvement in multinational endeavors ranging from the Bretton Woods agreement to the NATO treaty.

Based on this experience, he might recommend that the U.S. create once again such a consensual American hegemony. The first step in this effort could be simply to take the innovative but thin and confusingly presented argument for force employment in the Bush Doctrine, and, with appropriate elaboration and discussion, begin to build agreed standards for the preventive use of power.

Once that was accomplished, the next step could be to establish these standards in an effective institution, whether regional in nature or a coalition of democratic states. In keeping with this approach, he might emphasize that the U.S. cultivate allies and maintain large coalitions in order to secure desired behavior in other actors, to minimize cost, and to use their help to manage a rapidly changing, complex and contentious international environment. The U.S. may be in “a position of unparalleled military strength,” as President Bush noted in the 2002 National Security Strategy; but as Churchill understood from British history, even a hyperpower risks military overextension without allies.27


Churchill would regret, I think, that the Iraq war, now in its sixth year, has raised doubts not only in U.S. claims to legitimacy in its use of force, but the efficacy of such efforts against terrorism. From this perspective, he would hope that the struggle in Iraq would not dampen discussion and movement on the new approaches to the use of force raised by the Bush Doctrine in response to the privatization of war in a rapidly changing globe. In terms of future U.S. presidents, internal conditions of states are as likely as cross-border aggression to threaten international peace and stability, whether it is human rights violations and attendant refugee problems or failed states that become tempting targets for terrorists.

At the same time, WMD proliferation in a growing number of states increases the possibility that the norms against the use of such weapons will be eroded. The chances of this occurring rise dramatically as authoritarian or unstable governments acquire WMD capability. This, in turn, increases the chances that WMD will be used or that such weapons will find their way into the hands of terrorists.

Given these threats, Churchill would urge redoubled efforts to overcome the legitimacy-efficacy paradox in the use of force by working to establish norms for preventive force among the major powers, if not the international community. He might also remind American leaders that terrorism does not achieve its goals through its acts, but through the response to its acts. As a consequence, while it is prudent to prepare for threats, it is also prudent to avoid hesitation.

Certainly as Churchill well understood, before leaders embark on war, it is incumbent on them to consider costs, risks and unintended consequences in relation to the imminence of the threat if they are to acquire the moral basis of legitimacy for their action. “Few facts are so encouraging to the student of human development,” Churchill observed in his account of the 1898 “small war” in the Sudan, “as the desire, which most men and all communities manifest at all times, to associate with their actions at least the appearance of moral right.”28

Equally important, as Churchill learned from the Anglo-Boer War in 1899, improvements in communication and transportation meant a growing linkage between domestic and international legitimacy for Britain’s recourse to and conduct of war. As the Boer conflict dragged on and British forces initiated increasingly harsh measures in the evolving guerrilla war waged by the Boers, international disapprobation was matched by growing criticism on the part of the British public, directed not only at the conduct of the war, but the motivation for it as well. Looking back on these developments in his 1930 autobiography, Churchill issued a warning that still resonates today in a new era of “small wars”:

Let us learn our lessons. Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated War Offices, weak, incompetent or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant Fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations—all take their seat at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war.29


1. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: White House, September 2002, hereafter NSS 2002) and The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: White House, March 2006, hereafter NSS 2006).

2. NSS 2002, 15 and Ivo H. Daalder, “Beyond Preemption: An Overview” in Ivo H. Daalder, ed., Beyond Preemption, (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2007), 5.

3. NSS 2002, 15-16.

4. See for example, Ivo H. Daalder, Beyond Preemption; Robert Jervis, “Understanding the Bush Doctrine,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 118, No. 3 (Fall 2003), 365-88.; Robert Jervis, “Why the Bush Doctrine Cannot Be Sustained,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 120, No. 3 (Fall 2005), 351-77; and the astonishingly prescient analysis in Jeffrey Record, “The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq,” Parameters, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1 (Spring 2003), 4-21.

5. U.S. Department of Defense, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1-02 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 12 April 2001), 333, 336.

6. NSS 2002, p. 15. The National Military Strategy continued the conflation of the two terms by referring (12) to “preventive missions” while stating (2) that the “potentially catastrophic impact of an attack against the United States, its allies and its interests may necessitate actions in self-defense to preempt adversaries before they can attack.” Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Military Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2004). The current NSS uses the same preventive use of force language while stating that the “place of preemption in our national security strategy remains the same.” NSS 2006, 23, 18.

7. NSS 2002, ii.

8. High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility (New York: United Nations, December 2004), 63-64.

9. Winston S. Churchill, Their Finest Hour (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949), 231-32.

10. Roy Jenkins, Churchill (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001), 624. See also Churchill’s 4 July 1940 speech to the Commons on the “Destruction of the French Fleet,” Rhodes James, Robert., ed. Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963, 8 vols. (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974), VI: 6241-47, for which he received a standing ovation, “a scene unique in my own experience.” Churchill, Finest Hour, 238.

11. Churchill, Winston S. Marlborough: His Life and Times, 6 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932-38), II: 254 and III: 44.

12. Churchill, Winston S. The World Crisis, 1911-1914 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923), 282.

13. Frontispiece, Churchill, The Gathering Storm.

14. Ibid., 207-08.

15. Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 72.

16. 5 October 1938, “A Total and Unmitigated Defeat,” Churchill, Complete Speeches, VI: 6007-08.

17. Churchill, Gathering Storm, 348.

18. W.H. Auden, “September 1, 1939” and “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” Edward Mendelson, ed., Selected Poems, (New York: Vintage Books, 2007), 95, 90.

19. Robert G. Kaufman, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 91.

20. Churchill went on to say that if the Allies made this preventive war threat, the Soviets would yield. “You know better than I,” the American ambassador reported to Washington, “the practical infirmities in the suggestion.” 17 April 1948 message from U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Lewis Douglas to Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1948 (hereafter FRUS), Vol. III, Western Europe (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1974), p. 90.

21. 9 March 1954 letter, Peter G. Boyle, ed., The Churchill-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1953-1955 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1990), 123. See also John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 91.

22. Marc Trachtenberg, “The Bush Strategy in Historical Perspective,” in Nuclear Transformation: The New U.S. Nuclear Doctrine, James J. Wirtz and Jeffrey A. Larsen, eds., (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 13. See also James B. Steinberg, “Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Use of Force,” in Beyond Preemption, 23. On the preventive war option in NSC 68, see Thomas H. Etzold, and John Lewis Gaddis, eds., Containment: Documents on American Policy and Strategy, 1945-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), 431: “It goes without saying that the idea of ‘preventive’ war—in the sense of a military attack not provoked by a military attack upon us or our allies—is generally unacceptable to Americans.”

23. Original emphasis. 8 September 1953, Eisenhower to Dulles Memorandum, FRUS 1952-54, Vol. II, National Security Affairs (Washington, DC: GPO, 1984), 461.

24. NSS 2002, ii. See also Steinberg, 20-21 and Daalder, 9-10.

25. Winston S. Churchill, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (London: Longmans, Green: 1901), 223. For the British War Office outlook on small wars, see C.E. Callwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice (London: HMSO, 1896).

26. Allan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 528. See also Caitlin Talmadge, “Deterring a Nuclear 9/11,” in The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007, 23-24; Paul K. Davis and Brian M. Jenkins, Deterrence and Influence in Counterterrorism: A Component in the War on al Qaeda (Santa Monica: RAND, 2002), 39-40; and Steinberg, 26, 28.

27. NSS 2002, i; Daalder, 16-17; Ivo H. Daalder and James B. Steinberg, “Preventive War: A Useful Tool,” Los Angeles Times, 4 December 2005, M3. See also Joseph Nye, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); and Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

28. Winston S. Churchill, The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan, 2 vols. (Longmans, Green and Co., 1899), II: 389. See also David Fromkin, “The Strategy of Terrorism,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 53, No. 4 (July 1975), 692 and Benjamin Friedman, “The Politics of Chicken Littleism,” Cato Institute, 5 December 2007.

29. Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1930), 246.

A tribute, join us




Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.