Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


Israel. Might such relationships develop into mutual deterrence?

If Iran’s nuclear capability cannot be stopped either by

diplomatic or by preemptive military means, perhaps the Israelis

would become much more explicit about their nuclear capabilities

and address deterrence issues more directly. There are

efforts now to move Indo-Pakistani relations to the point where

they can cope with crises and reduce the risks of accidents and

inadvertent escalation. Could the same be achieved with Israel

and Iran? The reason for pessimism on this score is that the

cases of nuclear proliferation involve countries that are chronically

insecure and also, in a number of cases, potentially unstable

internally. This is incidentally not a new issue. Recall the

generals’ revolt in France in the late 1950s while the force de

frappe was under development or the Cultural Revolution in

China in the 1960s at the same time as their testing. Now, we

have to consider with Pakistan, North Korea, and maybe even

Iran the possibility of nuclear assets getting caught up in internal

turmoil. For both of these reasons, there is also a clear and

constant interaction with nonstate actors, which are often active

in and around these countries, stoking up dissent and conflict.

A final factor is that these arsenals are tiny. It is hard to

think in terms of mutual assured destruction as traditionally

conceived, but it may also be a reminder that a few nuclear

detonations would still have catastrophic consequences.

A further factor to consider is the pressure for radical disarmament.

It is hard to object because there is a lot of surplus

capacity around. At a certain point, continued disarmament

will raise questions about deterrence relationships, particularly

extended deterrence. This can already be seen with Japan, for

example, which hates nuclear weapons for good reasons and

would like them to be abolished. However, it is also scared of

China and values its alliance with the United States because it

does not want to look weak in relation to China.

Future Cares

In terms of a policy for the future, I would continue to stress

the importance of alliance, for this removes ambiguity from security

relationships. Alliance brings with it a form of extended

deterrence, even if it is not nuclear. Refusing alliance can have


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