Book - Brookings Institution Press

Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America

| March 1999


The end of the Cold War left the United States in the fortunate position of facing no imminent threat of global war. But it also left the United States in a strategic vacuum, with no organizing principle for its national security. This book proposes a security strategy for the 21st century based on preventing new major threats to U.S. security from emerging.

Informed by the authors' service in the Pentagon during President Clinton's first term, this book identifies six major dangers to U.S. security that have the potential to grow into threats to American interests and values as ominous as the Cold War's nuclear standoff. In chapters that cover chilling dangers ranging from Russia's implosion to the rising power of China, and from proliferation of biological weapons to cyber terrorism, the authors first recount from first hand experience the Pentagon's efforts to define and prevent dangers to U.S. security since the end of the Cold War, and then advance preventive defense strategies for the future. It argues that implementing a Preventive Defense strategy will require a revolution in the way the Pentagon does business -- a revolution that is only beginning.


Editorial Reviews

"The most important book by any ex-Clinton official."

-Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times, April 16, 1999

"In their excellent new study of foreign policy, Preventive Defense (Brookings), former Clinton Defense Secretary William J. Perry and his colleague Ashton B. Carter argue that we should be paying far more attention to the A list of potential threats to U.S. interests - the possibilities that Russia could descend into chaos, China become hostile, and the like."

-David Gergen
Editor at Large, U.S. News & World Report, April 12, 1999 

Advance praise for Preventive Defense from Brookings Institution Press, the publisher, March 9, 1999

"An essential guide to the critical choices that must be made as America rethinks potential threats to national security."

-General Brent Scowcroft
Former U.S. National Security Adviser 

"Preventive Defense is well written and easy to read, yet represents an in-depth analysis of the threats and challenges facing our world at the brink of the 21st century by the most authoritative authors on the subject. The personal recollections of Dr. Perry and Dr. Carter are skillfully intertwined with a highly professional manuscript. It is a wonderful read!"

-Andrei Kokoshin
Former First Deputy Minister of Defense of Russia
Former Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation

"Perry and Carter outline an important new preventive defense strategy to identify post-cold war dangers that might become cold war-scale threats and to apply U.S. tools and tactics to avert them. One such program is the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. As the authors persuasively argue, failure to reduce and secure the deadly legacy of the cold war - nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the states of the former Soviet Union - could quickly resurrect a major threat to the United States if those weapons were to fall into the hands of disaffected custodial personnel, rebellious factions, rogue regimes, or terrorists."

-Senator Richard G. Lugar
United States Senate

"The profound changes marked by the end of the cold war require us to think anew. Drawing upon their extensive expertise in national security affairs, Bill Perry and Ash Carter meet this challenge brilliantly by laying out a thoughtful and thought-provoking U.S. defense strategy for the 21st century. If we are to avoid disasters ranging from loose nukes to catastrophic terrorism, Preventive Defense should be required reading for members of Congress and national security policymakers both at home and abroad."

-Sam Nunn
Partner, King & Spalding;Former United States Senator

"What should the American strategy be for the 21st century? Carter and Perry rightly answer their own question by emphasizing the need to mobilize every resource - political, economic, and military - to head off the dangers of proliferation, terrorism, and loose nukes. We spent trillions of dollars on deterrence: are we prepared now to invest sufficiently in avoiding preventable threats to peace and to humanity? Preventive Defense gives us both the wake-up call and the elements of a new strategy."

-The Right Honorable Michael Portillo
Former Minister of Defense, United Kingdom

"This is a fascinating book, leading into the 21st century. William Perry and Ashton Carter describe an impressive approach to assure peace and international security. The book offers a broad overview of effective measures for conflict prevention from which Europe can profit immensely."

-Volker Ruhe
Former Defense Minister of Germany

"This book's prescription for the post-cold war defense strategy of the United States weaves together fresh analysis with the authors' considerable experience to delineate their concept of 'preventive defense.' Their underlying premise is that with the end of the cold war there is now really no Class I threat. Preventive Defense suggests that we anticipate where and how major threats - from Russia and China to terrorism and nuclear spread - might emerge and now devote the economic, diplomatic, and military resources to preventing the threat's emergence or growth - or shrink it by such measures. Provocative, interesting, instructive, and insightful and sound."

-James Schlesinger
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense
Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

For additional information, please see the Preventive Defense Project website or contact: Associate Director, Preventive Defense Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 79 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, MA  02138

Link to Table of Contents


Ashton B. Carter is Ford Foundation Professor of Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. William J. Perry is Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor at Stanford University and former Secretary of Defense. They are co-directors of the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Project.

About This Book

Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America

Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Carter, Ashton B., and William J. Perry. Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, March 1999.