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preventive attack vs preemptive

English translation: preemptive: correct; preventive: spun

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:preventive attack vs preemptive
English translation:preemptive: correct; preventive: spun
Entered by: mbc
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08:05 Dec 16, 2003
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
English term or phrase: preventive attack vs preemptive
I am translating from Spanish and the author uses "preventivo" which I originally translated as preventive attack against Iraq. Now that I have gone back I find that it sounds awkward and have switched to preemptive. I find examples of both on Google, more of preemptive however. My question is what is the real difference and which is more correct when describing the US invasion of Iraq. (Hope my question doesn´t get political)
Thanks in advance.
mbc
Spain
Local time: 08:00
preemptive: correct; preventive: spun
Explanation:
There was an attempt by the spin doctors of the W. Bush administration to substitute the term "preventive" for "preemptive", with the idea that "preventive" sounded more vague and general, relying less on imminent threat than on eventually evolving risk:

"The Bush administration needed an argument, an argument that would provide the legal underpinning for unilateral American military action against Iraq or other nations that we determine to be a similar threat, and the answer devised by the administration was laid out in September 2002 in the national security strategy document, the so-called Doctrine of Preventive War."
Selected response from:

Laurel Porter
Grading comment
Thanks to all of you. Everyone´s ideas were helpful, Laurel´s idea hit the nail on the head though. I ended up using the "spun" using in order to be true to the original text. Saludos a todos y todas, Madeline.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +5"pre-emptive" has a specific military definitionSusana Galilea
4 +4preemptive: correct; preventive: spunLaurel Porter
4 +2leaving politics aside ("old" Europe!)....xxxCMJ_Trans
5same but preemption ther term in use for this situation.nyamuk
4preemptiveGilbert Ashley


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
"pre-emptive" has a specific military definition


Explanation:
I have mostly heard "pre-emptive" used in your context. From the dictionary definitions, it would seem "pre-emptive" has a specific military definition, whereas "preventive" is more generic.


Source: The Collins English Dictionary © 2000 HarperCollins Publishers:

pre-emptive [prý'ɛmptýv]
adjective
3 (Military) designed to reduce or destroy an enemy's attacking strength before it can use it
example: a pre-emptive strike


preventive [prý'vɛntýv]
adjective
1 tending or intended to prevent or hinder
2 (Med) a tending to prevent disease; prophylactic
b of or relating to the branch of medicine concerned with prolonging life and preventing disease
3 (in Britain) of, relating to, or belonging to the customs and excise service or the coastguard



Susana Galilea
United States
Local time: 01:00
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish
PRO pts in pair: 110

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sven Petersson
32 mins

agree  Armorel Young: preemptive is a much better word in this context. After all, what are you preventing in a preventive attack? - certainly not an attack, because you've just launched one.
1 hr

agree  Laurel Porter
1 hr

agree  vixen
1 hr

agree  Heidi Stone-Schaller
1 hr
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5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
preemptive


Explanation:
Preemtive seems to be the usual term. It does mean preventive though, at least in this context.

Gilbert Ashley
PRO pts in pair: 16
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9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
leaving politics aside ("old" Europe!)....


Explanation:
I think you need to look closely at your context. "pre-emptive" is a word often used in set phrases like "pre-emptive strike" and, according to the dictinary (Oxford), means serving to pre-empt or forestall something e.g. especially to prevent attack by disabling the enemy.
"Preventive" action is also designed to prevent something undesirable from occurring.
It therefore all boils down to whether the US struck first, to get in the first blow in before the Iraqis struck them or whether they were simply taking preventive measures.
Much as I like "pre-emptive", I would hesitate over its use precisely for the above reason. It may however be better to avoid a straight translation such as "preventive" and to turn your sentence into one in which you can use the verbal form (to prevent...).
HTH

xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 08:00
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 376

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Charlie Bavington: agree entirely with your analysis of the difference between the two.
1 hr

agree  i8a4re: Also agree on the analysis... I think that Madeline might want to interpret the political stance of her text and choose between these two terms accordingly.
3 hrs
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
same but preemption ther term in use for this situation.


Explanation:
While they are synonomous the 'doctrine of preemption' is a political device that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq so 'preemption' is the correct term in this context.

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Note added at 13 mins (2003-12-16 08:19:06 GMT)
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same but preemption [is the] term in use for this situation.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 49 mins (2003-12-16 08:55:00 GMT)
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* or preemptive as your sentence may dictate

nyamuk
United States
Local time: 00:00
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 58
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
preemptive: correct; preventive: spun


Explanation:
There was an attempt by the spin doctors of the W. Bush administration to substitute the term "preventive" for "preemptive", with the idea that "preventive" sounded more vague and general, relying less on imminent threat than on eventually evolving risk:

"The Bush administration needed an argument, an argument that would provide the legal underpinning for unilateral American military action against Iraq or other nations that we determine to be a similar threat, and the answer devised by the administration was laid out in September 2002 in the national security strategy document, the so-called Doctrine of Preventive War."


    Reference: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/md08_vanhollen/Iraq_Sp...
    Reference: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/md08_vanhollen/Iraq_Sp...
Laurel Porter
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 36
Grading comment
Thanks to all of you. Everyone´s ideas were helpful, Laurel´s idea hit the nail on the head though. I ended up using the "spun" using in order to be true to the original text. Saludos a todos y todas, Madeline.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  i8a4re
1 hr
  -> thanks

agree  Gordon Darroch: spot on
4 hrs
  -> thanks, Gordon

agree  Pippin Michelli
6 hrs
  -> thanks

agree  Refugio: By choosing to use the spin-doctored version, the translator may be "true" to the original text, but is false to linguistic precision and a co-conspirator in Newspeak perpetration. Is our loyalty to the paying client or to the integrity of language?
10 hrs
  -> (Ooh... you can still afford integrity?) Good point, Ruth.
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