The Prior Question

Today's security debate revolves largely around what may be termed the prior question, that is, the question of identifying what may constitute serious threats to America's security in the post-Cold War world.

Issue: Summer 1995

Anyone who takes the trouble to examine the current debate over the nation's foreign policy cannot but be struck by its diffuse character. To be sure, past debates also had a diffuse side, raising as they did, questions of the nation's role and purpose in the world. But these broad issues were considered in the context of a specific policy issue. The major debates over foreign policy since the 1930s all responded to what was seen as a great power threat to America's security and centered about the question of how to respond to such a threat.

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