Surprise Attack: Lessons for Defense Planning

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Brookings Institution Press, Dec 1, 2010 - History - 318 pages
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Long before Germany's blitzkrieg swept the West, European leaders had received many signals of its imminence. Stalin, too, had abundant warning of German designs on Russia but believed that by avoiding "provocative" defensive measures he could avert the attack that finally came in June 1941. And the stories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, and three Arab-Israeli conflicts are replete with missed opportunities to react to unmistakable warnings. Richad K. Betts analyzes surprise attacks during the mid-twentieth century to illustrate his thesis: surprise attacks occur, not because intelligence services fail to warn, but because of the disbelief of political leaders.

"Although the probability is low that the United States will fail to deter direct attack by the Soviet Union," Betts says, "the intensity of the threat warrants painstaking analysis of how to cope with it." His own investigation of the historical, psychological, political, diplomatic, and military aspects of his subject heightens understanding of why surprise attacks succeed and why victim nations fail to respond to warnings. In discussing current policy he focuses on the defense of Western Europe and applies the lessons of history to U.S. defense planning, offering detailed recommendations for changes in strategy. Obviously some of the potential dangers of military surprise cannot be prevented. The important thing, he emphasizes, is that "without forces that exceed requirements (the solution Moscow appears to have chosen), it is vital to ensure that what forces exist can be brought to bear when needed.

 

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Contents

Deterrence Shock and Defense
3
Why Surprise Is Important
4
The Balance of Emphasis
12
Deterrence and the Unforeseen
19
Sudden Attacks in World War II
27
Blitzkrieg in the West
28
Blitzkrieg in the East
34
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
42
Context for Surprise
154
Soviet Defensive Surprise
162
Alliance Politics and Military Response
170
Reinforcement Slack and Friction
177
The NATO Central Front II Operations
189
Soviet Choices for Surprise
199
How NATO Might Cope
207
Nuclear Surprise
228

Sudden Attacks in the Postwar Era
51
Chinese Intervention in Korea
56
The Sinai Campaign
63
The Six Day War
65
The October War
68
The Invasion of Czechoslovakia
81
Why Surprise Succeeds I Operational Causes
87
Limits to Predictability
95
Circumventing Deterrence
111
Why Surprise Succeeds II The Fog of Peace
119
Interpretation and Reaction
120
Risk and Rationality
127
Defensive Surprise
141
The NATO Central Front I Politics
153
The Threat in Context
229
Escalation Doctrine and SelfSurprise
239
Technical Dimensions of Surprise
246
Beyond the Central Front
255
The Fringes of NATO
256
The Persian Gulf
261
Korea
273
Conclusion
281
Hedging Against Surprise
285
Warning and Response
286
Strategy and Posture
295
Negotiations and Deterrence
303
Index
313
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