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Since decision units normally operate in a complex environment with a relatively low information-processing capacity, they should be risk-averse and make moderate decisions. However, if decision units are closed and do not recognize the conditions of environmental complexity and low information due to the operation of psychological or social mechanisms, then they are prone to being risk-acceptant and making extreme rather than moderate decisions Braybrooke and Lindblom, ; Hermann and Hermann, ; Walker and Malici, There are four central research questions about deterrence and assurance strategies: These four questions correspond to the three aspects of any deterrence or assurance strategy and the importance, identified by Bunn , of tailoring the strategy.

In addressing these four questions it is important to recognize that the answers are interrelated. The answer to what deters or assures is that military capabilities can help deter and assure; however, they are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for deterrence success. As discussed in Chapter 2 , a variety of influences may be necessary diplomatic and economic among them , and, in some cases, deterrent efforts will fail even when the would-be deterer believes they should succeed.

Nuclear Deterrence: A Guarantee or Threat to Strategic Stability?

Another factor in success is the communications capabilities available to convince both adversaries and allies that military capabilities and other aspects of influence are available and ready for use against an adversary and on behalf of an ally. The possibility of strategic deception in the form of convincing allies and adversaries that one has more military capabilities than is actually the case underlines the psychological character of deterrence or assurance success. A strategic surprise, such as the U. Conversely, deterrence failure may occur even though the distribution of military capabilities may be asymmetrical in favor of the deterring power, because the putative deteree does not believe this information.

In turn, the effective communication of military capabilities and the resolve to use them depends on the application of local knowledge of the situation and actors in question.

However, admitting these strategic possibilities does not negate the central importance of military capabilities actual or perceived in tak-. Specifically, what are the optimal nuclear and conventional force postures for carrying out deterrence and assurance, including toward non-state actors as well as peers or near-peers and regional state actors? Schneider and Ellis identify seven classic elements of the U. With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of multiple new nuclear powers led by decision makers with different cultures, personalities, historical experiences, and military capabilities, this Cold War deterrence strategy may not be optimal for all possible rivals, especially those far different from the Soviet Union, including some non-state actors Lowther, b; Trexel, In particular, non-state actors like al-Qaeda may be significantly more difficult to deter than state actors since the former may have no known return address.

Some of their followers may also be willing to martyr themselves in order to strike a blow against the far enemy—that is, the United States. By keeping chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons out of the hands of such radical groups, they will be unable to strike a WMD blow. Thus, it is desirable to deter such groups from acquiring WMD capabilities by adopting security measures to lock down so-called loose nuclear material, to make it more difficult to smuggle materials out of nuclear facilities worldwide, to increase.

By making it more difficult to acquire WMD materials, to acquire the ability to transport and manufacture weapons from it, and to transport such arms and penetrate to significant targets, the U. What if these kinds of efforts fail and nuclear proliferation occurs so that peers or near-peers, regional powers, and non-state actors acquire nuclear weapons? Game theory has long been a traditional tool for answering this question about capabilities along with operations research and systems analysis Schelling, ; Ellsberg, Classical game theory models of this kind assume that both players make their choices based on the condition of two-sided information, i.

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With this information each player can calculate the optimum. Such a group would have to acquire WMD material and then transport it outside of the state where it was stolen. Then the group would have to manufacture such an explosive and transport it to the United States passing through several layers of defenses designed to detect and intercept it. Finally they would have to successfully transport the finished nuclear weapon to the target area and employ it against a continental U.

If the probability of each such step is assumed to be independent of the others in the process and if each step is reduced to just a 50 percent probability of success by taking defensive measures at each point in the step process, then the chance of a successful terrorist nuclear attack would be reduced to less of than one in a million. If each step is assumed to be necessary, then failure at any one of the 20 steps could prevent the attack by itself. Of course, if the terrorist group were to steal a finished nuclear weapon and acquired an ability to detonate it, then the risk to the United States and allies would be much higher see Mueller, Each is instead playing a different subjective game, and the outcome of their strategic interaction is the intersection of their choices based on their respective subjective games Maoz, ; Walker et al.

The rules of play also stipulate alternating rather than simultaneous moves based on information from revealed preferences inferred from prior behavior or pre-play communication between the players. These two changes increase the likely external validity of the model and its usefulness for understanding adversaries and allies in deterrence and assurance situations in real-world interactions.

The results of these more realistic games can identify the distribution of risk-acceptant and risk-averse paths forward for the United States and its adversaries and allies regarding the problems of deterring the escalation of conflicts and dissuading the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. A world of nuclear-armed powers in several regions increases the risk of escalation to a nuclear war from a conventional war and makes it desirable to focus increased attention on general deterrence and the dissuasion of nuclear proliferation, so that the occurrence of crisis and near-crisis situations involving extended and immediate deterrence actions are minimized.

Game theory provides a set of abstract models to represent the types of adversaries and allies that are possible in these security environments. The two players U.

Deterrence theory - Wikipedia

Conversely, the CF,CO outcome of 4,1 in the same game is the highest-ranked outcome of domination 4 for the U. However, in the world of nuclear.


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Cooperation CO and Conflict CF are the choices for each player, which can intersect and result in the following possible outcomes: The logic of these conflict games also applies to allies who disagree with the U. In this strategic environment the risk of deadlock is nuclear war as the final outcome of a conflict, which would pose an existential threat to what each player wishes to protect.

The solutions for all of these games with alternating moves and prior communication between players as the rules of play represent the logical outcomes in these two worlds if the United States chooses deterrence and assurance as its strategy. A deterrent threat will by definition not work against a completely nihilistic adversary who does not care whether anyone or anything survives a war. The results in Figure D-3 illustrate the continued value of game theory as a tool to specify conflict situations with potential adversaries in which assumptions are made about the preferences of each player for the possible outcomes to the game.

Finally, the results in Figure D-3 demonstrate how if the two players are truly strategic, that is, open to the information about their respective power positions in the world and aware of the nature of the outcomes of a nuclear war between them then when a CF,CF deadlock risking nuclear war is ranked lowest 1 , the asymmetrical conventional superiority of the United State does not guarantee the outcomes of either settlement CO,CO or U.

In a game of multiple equilibrium solutions, therefore, it is not always desirable in some cases for the United States to confront a nuclear adversary.


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For example, a projection of the submission outcome 2,4 in Figure D-3 for the United States as the equilibrium solution in a nuclear strategic environment is a sufficient condition for the United States to consider disengaging militarily from this type of conflict situation under certain conditions of play against any type of.

Strategies are distinguished and specified further here by the rank order of the four outcomes: There are four families of strategies whose members share one of these four outcomes as the top-ranked outcome; members within each family of strategies are differentiated by variations in the rankings of the remaining three outcomes. More generally, variations in rankings are specified by assumptions about differences in the distributions of power and interests between players Walker, It is important as well to acknowledge that these abstract, game-theoretic models may not have external validity.

In the real world of historical cases between the United States and the three types of actors in Figure D-3 , the assumptions in the model may not always be present. Each player may instead rank the four possible outcomes differently than the ones specified in this figure, or they may make decisions that are not based on information about all possible outcomes and the distribution of military capabilities between them. Specifically, if an adversary armed with nuclear weapons is not open receptive to deterrent threats, especially if backed into a corner with no way out, then it might elect to use those weapons first in a conflict for four reasons.

Third, the adversary might be tempted to use nuclear explosives to create electromagnetic pulse effects that would help level the playing field against a technically superior U. They might believe that since EMP was relatively bloodless, it might not provoke a nuclear response from the United States. Fourth, if an adversary was about to go down to defeat, it could elect to launch a revenge nuclear strike on U.

Conceptual models and the Cuban missile crisis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U. A Strategy of Decision. Free Press, New York. A Study of Crisis. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. These conditions may not always favor the United States in an actual historical situation. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York. Political Community at the North Atlantic Level. Doubleday, Garden City, N.

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U.S. Regional Deterrence Strategies

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