In this case, it would be more like a "shoot second
But fundamentally, it's difficult to see why the Federation should get particularly agitated about losing a few outposts. Supposedly, a single starship can do the job of these outdated installations if need be (even if perhaps at a greater cost), so there's plenty of time to think and talk things through before the military strike develops into an actual military crisis.
But that doesn't mean that the intent behind the outposts would not have been that of placing a loaded gun against the necks of all Romulans and telling them to behave. In the "just one system" model, the entire Romulan Star Empire might have been rigged to die in case of aggression. Even in the "vast FTL empire" model, having Romulus within interstellar weapons range could be a very deliberate message.
Perhaps the concept of blackmailing Romulus with the threat of total destruction was abandoned some time after the creation of the outpost chain, as nothing of the sort is actually discussed in this episode or later ones. Doesn't mean it couldn't have been the original intent behind the fortresses.