Threat Perceptions, 1945–50

Part of the Studies in Military and Strategic History book series (SMSH)


A military threat perception has at least two components; an assessment of a potential adversary’s capabilities along with a prediction of his likely intentions. A clear division of labour is often thought to exist in the development of the assessment, with capabilities a matter for military staffs, while intentions are thought to be more the stuff of sophisticated political and diplomatic analysis:

In estimating the security threats the military man looks at the capabilities of other states rather than at their intentions. Intentions are political in nature, inherently fickle and changeable, and virtually impossible to evaluate and predict. The military man is professionally capable of estimating the fighting strength of another state. But judging its policies is a matter of politics outside his competence.2


Middle East Threat Assessment Threat Perception Military Capability Soviet Threat 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    On the Chiefs of Staff system, 16 November 1943. Quoted in M. Gilbert, Churchill: A Life ( London: Heinemann/BCA, 1992 ), p. 758.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    S.P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations(Harvard University Press, 1957), p.66.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Edmonds (ed.), The Defence Equation — British Military Systems; Policy, Planning and Performance Since 1945 (London: Brassey’s, 1986), p. 6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    L. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat (London: Macmillan, 1986), p. 4.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Huntington, The Soldier and the State, p.66.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    N.J. Wheeler, ‘Perceptions of the Soviet Threat’, in S. Croft (ed.), British Security Policy: The Thatcher Years and the End of the Cold War ( London: Harper Collins, 1991 ), p. 177.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    D. Yergin, Shattered Peace: the Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State(London: Andre Deutsch, 1978), pp.14,112.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    S. Dockrill, Britain’s Policy for West German Rearmament, 1950–1955 (Cambridge University Press, 1991), p.7.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    E.J.Grove and G. Till, ‘Anglo-American Maritime Strategy in the Era of Massive Retaliation, 1945–60’, in J.B. Hattendorf and R.S. Jordan (eds.), Maritime Strategy and the Balance of Power: Britain and America in the Twentieth Century ( London: Macmillan, 1989 ), p. 275.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    T.A. Schwartz, America’s Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (Harvard University Press, 1991 ),p. 37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 87.
    See M. Howard, ‘Liddell Hart’, in M. Howard, The Causes of Wars (London:Temple Smith, 1983), p.203: describing Hart’s analysis of British strategy in the 1930s.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Cornish 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Security ProgrammeRoyal Institute of International AffairsLondonUK

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