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Deterrence—From Cold War to Long War

Deterrence—From Cold War to Long War: Lessons from Six Decades of RAND Research

Austin Long
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 122
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  • Book Info
    Deterrence—From Cold War to Long War
    Book Description:

    Since its inception six decades ago, the RAND Corporation has been one of the key institutional homes for the study of deterrence. This book examines much of this research for lessons relevant to the current and future strategic environment. It is therefore part intellectual history and part policy recommendation, intended to encourage debate and discussion on how deterrence can best be incorporated into U.S. strategy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4633-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Summary
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Thinking (and Rethinking) the Unthinkable: RAND and Deterrence
    (pp. 1-4)

    As World War II ended, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold sought to ensure military access to the country’s intellectual elite. To that end, he and others convinced the Douglas Aircraft Company to create Project Research and Development (RAND) as a means to continue the forward-looking vision on technology that had led the United States to develop the atomic bomb. This arrangement lasted until 1948, when Project RAND separated from Douglas and became the independent, nonprofit RAND Corporation. RAND quickly grew into an interdisciplinary think tank concerned with the problems of the...

  8. CHAPTER TWO A Too-Distant Mirror? The Relevance of Prior Deterrence
    (pp. 5-6)

    In examining prior research on deterrence, the question of its relevance is almost immediately raised. The Cold War was a time of intense bipolar competition between enormously powerful rival states that were also ideological opposites. The long war appears murkier, involving possible peer or near-peer competitors, regional adversaries, and nonstate actors, such as insurgents, terrorists, tribal groups, criminals, and militias. At the same time, the United States towered over all other states in almost every measure of military capability. Given these radical differences, can cold-war deterrence tell us anything about deterrence in the post-9/11 era?

    The answer is a qualified...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Department of Defense as Ministry of Fear: The Theory of Deterrence
    (pp. 7-16)

    A widely used definition ofdeterrenceis the manipulation of an adversary’s estimation of the cost/benefit calculation of taking a given action. By reducing prospective benefits or increasing prospective costs (or both), one can convince the adversary to avoid taking the action. Yet this relatively bloodless definition can be simplified and made more visceral: Deterrence is the generation of fear.

    RAND, home to engineers, scientists, and economists, used the more complex version of deterrence in much of the work discussed here. Yet it is clear that they never lost sight of the visceral definition. Such words asterrorandfear...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Avoiding the Garrison State: Deterrence as a Strategy
    (pp. 17-22)

    Before discussing policies intended to make deterrence credible, a brief discussion of why deterrence was important in the first place is appropriate. This may seem obvious in retrospect, but a strategy based on deterrence was not a foregone conclusion. The postwar grand strategy of containment with its reliance on nuclear deterrence was not the only strategy available. The United States could have prepared much more fully for a protracted conventional war or done more to prepare for fighting a nuclear war (through active and passive defenses, for example) or both. That it did neither of these was not an accident....

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Deflecting the Sword of Damocles: Strategic Defense and Deterrence
    (pp. 23-52)

    The first possible solution to maintaining a credible first-strike capability was to defend against Soviet retaliation. In the early 1950s, this would mean downing most if not all of the Soviet intercontinental bombers and medium bombers that could be sent on a one-way trip to the United States. RAND was already at work on air defense well before the Soviet Union had even broken the nuclear monopoly. One of the first RAND efforts ever, initiated in 1947 and completed in 1948, was titledActive Defense of the United States Against Air Attack. Though brief, it attempted to develop the theoretical...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Other Side of the Hill: Understanding the Adversary and Deterrence
    (pp. 53-58)

    The preceding chapter discussed the technical aspects of deterrence, with only modest reference to the psychological aspects. RAND analysis has unfairly been criticized as overemphasizing the rational nature of adversaries, particularly in crisis, and of underweighting the possibility of irrational action or the idiosyncrasies of decisionmakers. As evidence of this, critics point to Thomas Schelling’s oft-quoted remark that “you can sit in your armchair and try to predict how people will behave by asking how you would behave if you had your wits about you. You get, free of charge, a lot of vicarious, empirical behavior” (Archibald and Deutsch, 1966,...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Deterrence Then and Now
    (pp. 59-84)

    As noted previously, many future deterrence scenarios will look very different from the Cold War.¹ Yet understanding the logic behind the United States’ adoption of deterrence in the Cold War and the theory and practices that underpinned it during the Cold War will be crucial in the future. Deterrence is an uncomfortable pillar on which to rest security, so it must be widely and well understood if policymakers are to rely on it when other options seem plausible.

    This chapter will first discuss why deterrence will, in all likelihood, be a common part of U.S. grand strategy in the future....

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusion
    (pp. 85-86)

    While deterrence in the current and future security environments may look substantially different from deterrence in the past and require different capabilities, the basic concept remains the same. Further, given the desire to preserve the United States as something other than a garrison state, deterrence will continue to be a major component of U.S. grand strategy. While many of the arguments and recommendations presented in this book are open to debate, the central point is that deterrence will be as vital to the long war as it was to the Cold War. Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, the...

  15. APPENDIX Annotated Bibliography
    (pp. 87-90)
  16. References
    (pp. 91-108)