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6.4 Deterrence

Que. Discuss the logic behind the theory of deterrence, the types of deterrence doctrines and the relevance of deterrence in 21st century.

What is deterrence?
The term deterrence comes from the Latin word De terre – which means to frighten. The basic idea is to frighten the potential adversary from attacking.

What requires for deterrence?
Deterrence is a psychological concept. It assumes that the actors are rational. Deterrence will work only when the adversary believes in the credibility of deterrence. Adversary needs to be communicated that if it prefers to attack or start war, the victory will come at the cost which is not worth paying. (In case victory comes). Thus preventing the adversary from taking action.

Deterrence is an old concept, traditionally used for conventional weapons. However now it has got associated with nuclear weapons. That is the reason number of times, deterrence is seen as an alternative approach to balance of power. The concept of deterrence is developed by Game theorists. Prominent scholars supporting deterrence include Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Mearsheimer, Thomas Schelling.

The theory of deterrence has developed with the changing postures of the superpowers and specifically USA in context of its security. It was realized that USA’s security cannot be simply dependent on conventional weapons. Conventional weapons can convert the local wars into world wars. If nuclear deterrence is developed, it can ensure that the major war is avoided. USA’s security policy during cold war was based on deterrence. The only way to avoid war with USSR was to achieve ‘MAD’. MAD can be understood as nuclear balance. It is also called as the balance of terror. MAD was dependent on the capacity of a country to convince the other country that if it starts war, it is actually starting suicide. The idea of MAD is based on developing second strike capability. It means surviving the attack and retaliating and inflict unacceptable damage. (targeting civilians). MAD requires the development of triad. Some scholars in USA suggested to pursue the policy of NUTS, which means Nuclear Utilization Target Selection. It also denotes developing 1st strike capacity. However it requires huge investment and may push countries towards the dangerous arms race. During cold war, We have also seen that USA under Kennedy administration shifted towards ‘Flexible response’. Flexible response means ability to respond in both manners.
1) Strategic – developing long range weapons, targeting civilians. 
2) Tactical – developing the nuclear warheads, to be used in battlefield. At present, Pakistan is developing tactical weapons (HATF missile). India is also developing Prahar.
Countries can have direct deterrence or extended deterrence. e.g. Japan, South Korea are under USA’s extended deterrence.

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Relevance of deterrence in 21st century.

Why question mark on the relevance?
1. The emergence of complex interdependence. 
2. The main security threat comes from non-state actors.

Realist however never accept that nuclear weapons have lost relevance.
Kenneth Waltz believes that nuclear weapons were factor where cold war remained cold. Kenneth Waltz & Mearsheimer support ‘selective proliferation’, means proliferation among western countries will add to security, the reason being are that they are democracies.
On the other hand, second generation nuclear state can’t maintain security, safety & may not be accountable to public opinions.

Liberals however believe that nuclear weapons, needs to be eliminated. The urgency has increased because of the fear of proliferation into the hands of non-state actors.

Social constructivists scholar Nina Tannenwald suggest that nuclear taboo has come into existence. According to her, the main reason US could not use nuclear weapon against Vietnam was the development of taboo against the use of nuclear weapons. Hence it is not possible for countries to use nuclear weapons. Hence those countries which do not have nuclear weapons should not feel insecure rather should support the construction of norms which strengthen the nuclear taboo further.

Henry Kissinger also does not support reliance on nuclear deterrence because deterrence will apply only in case of rational actors. According to them, countries should find other means to reduce the security threats.

Though it is widely believed that the relevance of nuclear weapons have declined in post cold war situation, yet major countries like USA, Russia, France continue to rely on nuclear deterrence in their security policy. USA coming out of ABM treaty (Anti Ballistic Treaty), IMF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) indicate the new arms race. The Nuclear Posture Review released by Trump administration in February 2018 clearly show that US continue to rely on nuclear weapons for its security as well as security of its allies.

Pre-emptive Strike
It is first strike attack with Nuclear weapons, carried out to destroy enemy’s capacity to respond.
1_It is based on future anticipation of attack from enemy.
2_Since it is based on anticipation than aggression, international community may not support.
3_There is always a fear that if intelligence is not perfect.
4_Development of nuclear triad have made it more difficult to carry out pre-emptive strike.

//For further reading, refer to the article by Prof. Ramesh Thakur in The Hindu. ‘Nuclear Deterrence is Overrated’.

Test Your Knowledge!

1] The concept of Deterrence is mainly developed by
a) Marxists
b) Game Theorists
c) Feminists
d) Environmentalists

Show Answer

Ans: b) Game Theorists

2] Which among the following are prominent scholar/scholars supporting Deterrence Theory?
a) Bernard Bordie
b) Mearsheimer
c) Herman Kahn
d) All of the above

Show Answer

Ans: d) All of the above

3] “Consider the following statements.
Realist such as Waltz and Mearsheimer believe that nuclear proliferation among the western wtates will result in insecurity.
Liberals believe that nuclear weapons need to be eliminated. “
a) Statement 1 only is correct
b) Statement 2only is correct
c) Both statements are correct
d) Both statements are incorrect

Show Answer

Ans: b) Statement 2only is correct. Waltz and Mearsheimer believe that nuclear proliferation among Western states will result in Security

4] Why the US could not use nuclear weapons against Vietnam? Identify the most appropriate reason.
a) Lack of weapons
b) Fear of sanctions
c) Nuclear Taboo
d) None of the above

Show Answer

Ans: c) Nuclear Taboo

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