Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age

Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age

Keith B. Payne
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age
    Book Description:

    Keith Payne begins by asking, "Did we really learn how to deter predictably and reliably during the Cold War?" He answers cautiously in the negative, pointing out that we know only that our policies toward the Soviet Union did not fail. What we can be more certain of, in Payne's view, is that such policies will almost assuredly fail in the Second Nuclear Age -- a period in which direct nuclear threat between superpowers has been replaced by threats posed by regional "rogue" powers newly armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

    The fundamental problem with deterrence theory is that is posits a rational -- hence predictable -- opponent. History frequently demonstrates the opposite. Payne argues that as the one remaining superpower, the United States needs to be more flexible in its approach to regional powers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4843-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Colin S. Gray

    Why did the great Cold War not conclude with a nuclear World War III? Were we clever, or lucky, or both? Did our policies of nuclear deterrence prevent a war that otherwise would have occurred? InDeterrence in the Second Nuclear Age,Keith Payne sets out neither to praise deterrence nor to bury it. Indeed in a major achievement he has administered a distinctly nonroutine examination of deterrence, without killing the patient.

    All too rarely, genuinely important books appear on the broad subject of national and international security. This book is one such. I invite anyone skeptical of the promise...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The word deterrence may bring to mind the Cold War’s “balance of terror” and threats of nuclear “mutual assured destruction.” During the Cold War, U.S. policies of deterrence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union focused on nuclear weapons and nuclear threats. These deterrence policies and the nuclear weapons supporting them became the focus of an often noisy and cantankerous public debate concerning U.S.-Soviet relations and nuclear weapons.

    The debate about nuclear weapons in the United States often descended to “bumper-sticker” sloganeering, supposedly pitting thoughtful anti-nuclear activists against a primitive and malevolent military-industrial complex. That characterization of the nuclear debate, popularized in much...

  8. Chapter 2 New Environment, New Requirement
    (pp. 17-36)

    Implicitly or explicitly, U.S. Cold War deterrence policies focused on U.S.-Soviet relations and presumed a bipolar international environment—not unreasonable starting points for the period when the theoretical framework for these policies emerged, the 1950s and 1960s. The Cold War goal of U.S. nuclear deterrence policies was to prevent nuclear and conventional attack against the United States and those allies covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The Soviet Union, with its enormous conventional capabilities poised against Western Europe and its later tremendous nuclear arsenal was the primary source of concern and object of U.S. strategic deterrence threats.

    In the second...

  9. Chapter 3 The Valor of Ignorance
    (pp. 37-78)

    In Chapter 2, I concluded that U.S. effort at deterrence in the second nuclear age may, in some cases, be more complex because of the need to expand the potential list of target states, and because of the expanded duties of deterrence likely to be required. Yet, despite the dramatic changes in the international environment occurring since the late 1980s, many civilian and military specialists who focus on deterrence policy are reluctant to reconsider Cold War deterrence concepts and policies. As Fred Iklé has recently observed in this regard, “The demise of the Soviet empire ought to have made it...

  10. Chapter 4 Success, Motivation, Mistakes, and Uncertainty
    (pp. 79-120)

    Senior U.S. officials and prominent commentators, reflecting Cold War–era confidence and assumptions, now express certainty concerning the prospective effectiveness of deterrence in the second nuclear age—even to the point of identifying specifically those countries against which deterrence will surely work. Chapters 2 and 3, however, suggest several reasons why the Cold War strategic deterrence paradigm may be inappropriate as the basis for confidence for the second nuclear age: (1) whereas the duties of U.S. Cold War deterrence policies were to prevent Soviet nuclear or conventional attack, in the second nuclear age, as the proliferation of WMD and delivery...

  11. Chapter 5 Reconsidering the Hubris of Past and Present
    (pp. 121-154)

    In Chapter 4 I concluded that deterrence policies, although potentially effective, are inherently unreliable because leaders do not consistently behave in the manner posited in deterrence theory. In addition, this problem is not amenable to definitive correction through the introduction of nuclear threats. By posing a fearsome threat, nuclear weapons may enhance the credibility of a deterrence commitment in some cases, as in the apparent deterrence of Iraqi WMD during the Gulf War. Given the variety of ways policies of deterrence can fail, however, to claim that nuclear threats can reliably and predictably ensure the effectiveness of deterrence policies can...

  12. Chapter 6 Summary and Conclusion
    (pp. 155-160)

    It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which the axioms of Assured Vulnerability have captured U.S. policy and thought regarding deterrence. In civilian and military seminars and studies, recognition occasionally is expressed of the need to rethink deterrence policy. Yet the basic assumptions of Assured Vulnerability remain largely unexamined and unchallenged: opponents are assumed to be subject to U.S. deterrence policies, to be rational, sensible, well-informed, and predictably cowed by severe U.S. threats. With several notable and welcome recent exceptions, expressions to this effect by officials and expert commentators are numerous and clear. Appreciation of the many mechanisms...

  13. Index
    (pp. 161-168)