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Two terms, closely related, are often used as synonyms but it is important to keep the distinction between them always in mind. The meaning of “national security” is clear enough—it means how safe are we as a nation? It is not always easy to give an accurate answer to that question but we know what we are trying to assess. “National strategy,” on the other hand, refers to how we seek to be secure. It frequently is the subject of great, continuous, and emotional debate and little about it can be taken for granted. This book examines the security of the United States from the perspective of the strategy we have followed at various times. Because if things are not working out right, it will be because our ideas about how to be secure, and what we need to do about it, need adjusting. In the aftermath of our wounding experience in Vietnam, the second war with Iraq, and the later phase of the Afghanistan War, we are at a point where we seriously need to consider that we have been doing wrong. Embarking on a war is always a very risky thing. If a nation is attacked, it has little option; it must either respond with force or surrender. But going to war is often a matter of choice. No decision a nation can make compares in importance with this one. It is not just that war inevitably brings destruction and bloodshed in its train. War turns individual lives upside down. For the nation as a whole it means facing the sobering fact that whatever ability you previously had to unilaterally control your national fate, is now abandoned. You have entered a very dicey partnership to inflict mutual destruction. No matter if you have a neat set of war plans which are designed to get you in the fighting where you want to go at minimum cost. Your enemy will have other plans, and they will enter into and distort the equation. So the most important consideration when making the decision to go to war is to be as absolutely sure as you can be that you really need to do it. “Is this war really necessary?” should be printed at the top of all congressional and White House stationery. It is the prime question to which all analyses of national security must be addressed from the perspective of grand strategy. It might be supposed that so solemn a decision as that of going to war would only be taken after much thought and examination both of alternatives and of the likely course of events, given a range of scenarios. Nothing could be farther from the actuality. That is emphatically not how the United States goes to war. Obviously, for anyone to question whether war is really necessary or even desirable requires a cool head in a time when the discussion is highly likely to be very heated. Yet if rational considerations are abandoned, we get whatever comes of it, good, bad, or worse. That there are rational considerations for judging the desirability and feasibility of a war should not be doubted, just because they are so often not taken seriously or fully into account. We shall have much to say about what they are as we go on. A second obvious (but easily overlooked) consideration is to have some plan for ending a war, once begun. When the leaders of the Japanese government decided in mid-1941 that war with the United States was inevitable, they planned the Pearl Harbor attack. While from America’s point of view it was a sneak and unprovoked attack, from a military point of view it was a brilliant initial move. But the Japanese did not have the resources to invade the continental United States and subdue it. So, having begun well, the Japanese had no real hopes of achieving the aims that had inspired the attack. Unless they could count on America’s nerves and will being so undermined by the Pearl Harbor attack that the United States would seek a negotiated peace. If they had initially done a careful assessment of the American character and history, they would have quickly realized that the United States was not likely

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