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pre-emptive attack

Meaning: a surprise attack before declaring war or invading a country

For example:

  • The 1941 Japanese pre-emptive attack on Pearl Harbour almost destroyed the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

  • Before invading Iraq, the U.S. military carried out pre-emptive missile attacks on Baghdad.

Note: Also "pre-emptive strike"

Quick Quiz:

Pre-emptive attacks are usually carried out

a. without warning

b. without killing

c. without force

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Contributor: Matt Errey