From Hitler’s Germany to Saddam’s Iraq

The Enduring False Promise of Preventive War

This year, New America celebrates 20 years of creating and incubating the next big ideas that address some of the nation's and the world’s toughest problems. We are thinkers, researchers, problem-solvers, and storytellers, united by our goal to hold our nation to its highest ideals. We recognize the challenges presented by rapid technological and social change, and work to ensure that the solutions made possible by those changes lead to greater opportunity for all. As we reach forward toward the next 20 years of New America, we will strive to be an engine of American renewal, at home and abroad.

In August 2017, President Trump threatened North Korean President Kim Jong-un with “fire and fury”; it was a blunt warning of the potential consequences if North Korea continued its drive to develop nuclear-tipped missiles with intercontinental reach. While the rhetoric was more provocative than the typical presidential pronouncement, this episode was just the latest flare-up of the preventive war temptation in American foreign policy.

Preventive war, as a strategy for neutralizing growing threats, is the subject of From Hitler’s Germany to Saddam’s Iraq, the new book by Scott Silverstone, Ph.D., Class of 2016 ASU Future of War Fellow. In the book, Professor Silverstone presents a paradoxical outcome that has plagued preventive war strategies across 2,500 years of history, 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. The narrative cuts through the cacophony of the daily headlines to offer a fresh way of thinking about shifting threats while warning against the false promise that preventive military attacks will solve the problems that haunt our visions of the future.

Join New America for a conversation with Scott Silverstone, Ph.D. along with New America Vice President Peter Bergen.

Follow the conversation online using #20Years200Fellows and following@NAFellows.


Scott A. Silverstone, @SaSilverstone
Class of 2016 Future of War Fellow, New America
Professor of International Relations, United States Military Academy at West Point

Peter Bergen, @peterbergencnn
Vice President, Global Studies & Fellows, New America