Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


important that the United States follow Sun Tzu’s dictum “know

thy enemy.” The same is true of the leader-centric rogue regimes

that also pose a threat to US national interests.

Cyber attacks are growing in their frequency and sophistication.

Deterring these attacks will become increasingly important

in the decades ahead. As the most technologically advanced

nation in the world, the United States faces a serious threat in

cyberspace, as do its technologically advanced allies. In addition,

while the United States may not face weapons of mass

destruction in cyberspace, “weapons of mass effect” are a real

threat. With advanced technology playing a major role in propelling

the US economy and in supporting the nation’s defense,

cyber attacks are attractive options for current and future adversaries.

As new phenomena, cyber attacks provide no “red

lines” that communicate to a potential adversary the value of

America’s information infrastructure and the repercussions for

attacks against it. Thus, credible cyber deterrents will require

coordinated interagency collaboration to design effective policies.

They will also necessitate a better understanding of the

dangers posed to critical infrastructure in the cyber domain.

Deterring the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction

will grow in importance and difficulty as additional states

acquire these weapons. There was near-unanimous agreement

that the proliferation of WMD knowledge and technology cannot

be completely staunched. It is, however, possible to raise

the costs of acquisition by improving export controls, strengthening

punitive measures for treaty violations, and creating a

viable multilateral strategy for counter/nonproliferation.

Currently, the United States frequently describes actions

that threaten nonproliferation objectives as “unacceptable” or

“grave” while taking no action when adversaries violate American

declarations. This undermines the credibility of deterrence

and of established counter/nonproliferation regimes. A more

effective mix of dissuasion, denial, and deterrence is required

to slow the proliferation of WMD knowledge and technologies.

Moreover, such efforts must be led by the United States and

other technologically advanced nations.

In addition, as one arms control specialist suggested during the

plenary session, the arms control and deterrence communities


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