Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


might trigger exterminatory international preemption or

retaliation by many states. NSAs therefore seem much

more likely to acquire WMD for escalatory provocation

or “accelerated engrenage,” rather than deterrence.

• But if they were prepared to adopt extremely high-risk

options, NSAs might attempt to use WMD for deterrence

by punishment in two main ways, depending on their

reading of the leverages and vulnerabilities of opposing

governments and publics:

• Discreet blackmail, secretly revealing locations of actual,

clandestinely emplaced, WMD to governments,

as proof that there were more—which would, if necessary,

be used.

• Overtly publicised threats, with open displays of capability

aimed at terrorising electorates into demanding

that governments hold back from stated red lines (e.

g., BW campaigns with additional outbreaks promised

unless deterrence conditions were met).

• Yet the paradox haunting NSA deterrence would then

bite still more strongly.

• Proven acquisition and actual deployment of strategically

significant WMD would represent a huge increase

in NSAs’ power, even if the weapons were never used.

Their nonstate owners would consequently have to expect

extreme preemptive or punitive reactions from the

society of states rather than any easy acceptance of a

high-level mutually deterrent relationship.

• At any level: Cease-fires, hints of cease-fires, and indications

of willingness to negotiate

• The suggestion of negotiation, peace processes with tantalising

glimpses of an end to agitation or violence, is a

well-tried method to induce an antagonist to impose restraint

in his prosecution of conflict. But the risks are

also obvious. Governments may have little reason to

trust a hostile NSA’s good faith or to hold back if they

judge its campaign to be faltering. Yet its supporters

may not easily understand, or even tolerate, cease-fire

offers if NSA efforts are still portrayed (as they may have


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