first strike

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Getting one's retaliation in first. In warfare the first (or pre‐emptive) strike strategy aims to maximize damage to one's enemy; combining the element of surprise, the full deployment of offensive capability, and undermining an opponent's ability to respond. Particularly threatening when nuclear weapons are involved, strategists sought to minimize the attraction of a first strike in warfare by building up second‐strike capacity and formulating the theory of mutually assured destruction. See deterrence.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence — Politics.

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