By cold war, therefore, when the word deterrence

By cold war, therefore, when the word deterrence

By Gerard ChretienDeterrence is a theory of International relations based in Realism. Essentially, it tries to explain the situation of when two or more states threaten retaliation if attacked, in order to deter the attack. It is therefore possible to very simply state deterrence as “You hit me, I hit you.” For this essay, two main questions have to be addressed, Has it worked? and Does it make sense? To answer these questions, I will firstly define what deterrence is, I will then examine some of the main arguments for and against it, in theory and in reality; finally, I will show some of the consequences of states following such a policy. Deterrence, as already stated, can concern itself with any form of threatened counter-attack, however, for this essay, I shall be concentrating on Nuclear deterrence, using examples from the cold war, therefore, when the word deterrence is used, it should be taken as nuclear deterrence. Hedley Bull describes deterrence as follows: “To say that country A deters country B from doing something is to imply the following: (i) That Country A conveys to Country B a threat to inflict punishment or deprivation of values if it embarks on a certain course of action; (ii) That Country B might otherwise embark on that course of action; (iii) That Country B believes that Country A has the capacity and the will to carry out the threat, and decides for this reason that the course of action is not worthwhile.

” Therefore, for deterrence to occur, a state must convey a message to another state, usually “these will be the public an authoritative utterances of government officials.” Secondly, to use Hedley Bulls language, country B would consider following a course of action which Country A does not wish and does not because of the threat – not because it has no interest to. Thirdly, Country A must be able to convince Country B that it is capable of carrying out its deterrence threat and is prepared to use it. Mutual deterrence is where two or more states deter each other from following a set of actions – effectively a stand off or a stalemate between the actors.

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The concept of deterrence can be seen easily in public statements, for example, Churchill told Parliament on Britains hydrogen bomb was, “the deterrent upon the Soviet union by putting her….on an equality or near equality of vulnerability,” a soviet attack “would bring down upon them at once a crushing weight of nuclear retaliation” and a nuclear war “would result in mutual annihilation.” Similarly, the United States issued a formal deterrent warning in January 1954 announcing an intention of “more reliance on deterrent power and..

..a great capacity to retaliate, instantly, by means and at places of our own choosing.” This was qualified a little while later, “a potential aggressor be left in no doubt that he would be certain to suffer damage outweighing any possible gains from aggression.” These statements ended the era of the implicit threat which had been evident to the world since Hiroshima, and fulfils Hedley Bulls first criteria for deterrence. There are a number of consequences to the threat of deterrence.

In relation to the cold war, some argue that it escalated the arms race and the threat of a nuclear war was increased; conversely, some argue it brought peace. An interesting phenomena was the war by proxy, where the superpowers would both indirectly support opposing states or factions within states to curtail each others sphere of influence. Third world states with tendencies towards one of the superpowers were supported by that power and became client-states. The superpowers aim were to gain influence and power in that particular region, thereby maximising power for some future use, for example, using it as a knock on effect to gain other states or to control the region through the client state. Any third world state which was a client of the superpowers could expect any internal opposition to be supported by the other superpower, similarly, any opposing state would also receive support. With the exceptions of Korea (1950-54), Vietnam (1965-74) and Afghanistan (1979-86) where one side was drawn into direct conflict, both sides avoided direct intervention, preferring to indirectly support groups or states already involved.

If one superpower did get involved directly, the inevitable end would be a large scale war – as what happened in the above three exceptions. If both were directly involved, the almost inevitable end would be an escalation to nuclear weapons. The result was firstly the increase in costs for the superpowers overall strategy. The main outcome was by using these third world countries as pawns for their war, they increased the level of technology used by each side to fight each other, resulting in much more severe conflicts. There are many examples of indirect intervention, the most well known on a regional basis are: Israel and the Arab states (1948-90) and the Horn of Africa (1970-90). Internal conflicts include Cuba (1959-90), Iraq (1958-78) and Libya (1969-80).

Michael Walzer argues from a consequentialist point if view that deterrence is right. His theory maintains that, since human well-being is the basis of judging an action, moral judgements will be based on the prospect of bringing about a greater good or lesser evil. Whilst Walzer does not deny that the threat of destroying millions of people – inevitably innocents and civilians in a nuclear war – violates common morality, he argues that under the conditions of the cold war which he describes as a “supreme emergency”, the west is justified in issuing such a threat. For Walzer, the Soviet threat constitutes imminent danger which threatens societys ultimate values. A threat on innocents and attacks on them can be justified when the feared outcome of not issuing the threat is unbearable and cannot be tolerated. Walzer further argues that the preservation of freedom and a societys right to hand it down to their descendants is of overriding importance. Self-defence is impossible against an enemy prepared to use nuclear weapons, the only safety is “a balance of terror.

” The mutual fear created by deterrence, Walzer states is a restraint on a nuclear exchange occurring, hopefully meaning that it could never occur. “We threaten evil in order not to do it, and the doing of it would be so terrible that the threat seems in comparison to be morally defensible.” Walzer continues, that deterrence does not actually involve doing anything to other people.

the strategy has so far been bloodless and most believe that the threat will never become reality, preventing any form of nuclear holocaust, foreign domination (by the Soviets) or nuclear blackmail. This defence of deterrence has a number of problems. Firstly, it assumes that the destruction of millions of individuals, including those on both sides is more preferable than to live under a foreign rule or being able to pass the right to be free to descendants, this appears to be a case of “better dead than red”. A situation where Walzer feels that it is better to be killed in a nuclear holocaust than not have basic human rights perceived not to be allowed in the soviet Union.

The defence has a definite western bias to it, portraying the Soviets as the evil expansionists and would attack if countries such as the United States did not issue such threats. Whilst it cannot be said that the United States was not under any threat, it is difficult to say whether the perceived threat from the Soviets was as a consequence of issues such as deterrence, which can be seen to have led to the build up of arms and escalations in wars in the third world, or if deterrence indeed managed to prevent the Soviets from attacking and the other related issues were not connected or led to deterrence. The criticisms of deterrence are quite widespread, they fall in to two broad overlapping categories, theoretical and practical. Theoretically, the concept has internal contradictions which in order to understand, have to be considered in the broader context of realism. Realism is based on the assumption that states act rationally and that two states in a similar situation will act in a similar way, regardless of internal (i.e.

cultural) differences. This is the so called billiard ball approach of realism: where each state is a billiard ball on the world system table. an interaction by two or more balls on the table is governed by the laws of physics, similarly, an interaction between two or more states is governed by “the same cool and clearheaded ends-means calculation based on perfect information and a careful weighing of all possible alternative courses of action,” in short, states act rationally. The first principle of realism is for the state to defend itself and its citizens from other states.

The superpowers tried to defend themselves and their citizens by deterrence, a preventative method of ensuring peace. To ensure that each side knew that the other sides threat was real, the US-Soviet arms race escalated to enhance their second strike capability – enabling a country to withstand an initial strike by an adversary and retain the ability to retaliate and inflict devastating loses. Therefore the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was coined by policy makers to characterise the strategic balance- nuclear deterrence was “like holding a gun with two barrels, of which one points ahead and the other points back at the guns holder,” to use it would assure serious injury to yourself. At this point, deterrence appears at odds with realism. What deterrence proposes is a system of defence which is ever carried out ensures the destruction of a states own people.

This is directly at odds with the first principle that the state must protect its citizens and even further appears irrational. By protecting the state by deterrence methods, what actually can occur is suicide, or more correctly, mutual homicide. To use Hedley Bulls words again, Country B must perform an irrational act for deterrence theory to be credible to Country A, if Country B always acts rationally, it will never use its nuclear capabilities, Country A will know that and so can ignore any threat which Country B makes.

Deterrence becomes a game of bluff. The question which now needs examining relates to Hedley Bulls third assumption – that Country B has the will and the capacity to carry out the threat. Realistically, would a state actually consider going through the process of MAD to counteract an attack? What form of attack would this relate to, would it have to be a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the enemy or does deterrence allow a nuclear response to a conventional attack? Thirdly, how does a state convince others that if attacked, it is irrational enough to cross the nuclear threshold? The reality appears to be that the possible consequences during the cold war would have been so devastating that nobody is willing to call the other sides bluff. Hopefully these answers will never have any Empirical data to give any answers. The second theoretical criticism involves the concept of second-strike capabilities.

Assuming that a nuclear attack has been launched against Country B, the likelihood is it will be a devastating attack and the states life is all but ended. If there is therefore nothing to defend, what is the point of carrying out the threat of devastating the opposition? What is left of County B launching its own missiles will be causing destruction and millions of deaths for no rational gain. It appears that under this scenario, the rational action is not to launch and at least spare the lives of millions of people and perhaps allow humans the chance of surviving a holocaust.

The motives for sending a retaliatory or second strike when its own country is annihilated is in retaliation, retribution, revenge, a need to inflict equal or more damages on the opposition, keeping the promise that it would occur: Definitely not rationality. The third criticism relates to the cold war. The United States and the Soviet Union were enemies over ideology. The United States version was of upholding human rights such as freedom, life, dignity and so on. If the United States used its second strike capability after it had been effectively destroyed, it would be attacking out of retribution, infringing the rights of the Soviets and so going against the principles of the United States ideology. It is possible to use Game Theory to explain how two states acting rationally end up making irrational decisions, if it is taken that the first stage in deterrence is building the weapons: Country A Build Not Build Country B Build 10 F 10 5 D 50 Not Build 50 E 5 25 C 25 It would be rational for both countries not to build (C) as they both have an equal capability. However, because they cannot trust each other and are worried that one may build, moving into D or E and the disadvantages that will bring, both build missiles (F), resulting in an equality of capabilities, but overall, they are less well of than in C .

This leads to the second part of the game, whether to use them: Country A Use weapons Not use Country B Use weapons 0 Z 0 0 Y 15 Not use 15 X 0 10 W 10 This second game shows the relative utility of using the weapons. There is an advantage in one side using their weapons first (X or Y) but this is quickly negated by the other countries retaliation (Z), here, according to this model, both will lose. Also, to try to exemplify the irrationality of the retaliation or second strike, in cells X and Y the country not using the weapons has already received a score of 0 which is meant to show the irrationality of moving to Z. States rationally weigh up the odds, but the ultimate outcome if used is irrational. At this point a further criticism can be made, what happens if one side misjudges the game and sees an advantage in attacking? A mis-calculation could prove disastrous for both sides. In the nuclear age, deterrence simply does not work, theoretically, morally or realistically. It is essentially a threat to commit suicide if attacked and is irrational.

Deterrence is however a well established theory which can be seen to have been used throughout history. In a pre-nuclear age, it is much more rational as it does not have the final act of suicide. In a conventional way, it is merely a threat to deter and the threat can be carried out by conventional armies without the mass destruction of innocents which appears inevitable in the post-war era. Deterrence can be seen to be a well established theory which has been overtaken by technology and made irrational and has yet been unable to adapt to the new situation. To go back to the two questions asked in the introduction Has it worked? and Does it make sense? It appears that despite its obvious problems.

Deterrence has worked on the one basic level, nuclear war has not occurred. It is however easy to imagine that given the criticisms of the theory, nuclear war has not occurred despite deterrence and that deterrence has led to an escalation of the arms race and close situations such as the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). There appears to be other ways in which the nuclear problem may have been solved, the most obvious is not to build the bombs in the first place. However, the lack of trust between the two superpowers – who were enemies, as expressed in Game theory shows how the building of arms is almost unavoidable.

Trust, or the lack of it, appears to be the driving motive behind deterrence and shows its strong links with realism, depicting the world as an anarchy where co-operation and trust are at best, minimal. The two sides did not trust each other on a number of levels, firstly they did not trust each other not to make the weapons, secondly they did not trust each other to use them in a pre-emptive strike and thirdly they did not trust each other not to use them in a retaliatory or second strike capacity. This third level of trust appears the reason why a nuclear war never has broken out. Both sides are more than aware of the consequences and are unwilling to call each others bluff. Deterrence therefore is a game of bluff, it is about convincing the enemy that a country is irrational enough to go MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

In the nuclear context, it only works whilst each side believes that the threat is real – the countries involved believe each other irrational enough to use it. The threat has to be a credible one but if it was ever carried out it will be disastrous. Deterrence is based on actors being rational in deterring potential aggression but find themselves in an irrational situation, effectively signing themselves to suicide if war ever broke out.

Deterrence ultimately is a very dangerous game of bluff which only works whilst everyone believes in it. Theoretically it is irrational and based on emotions of revenge and so does not make much sense in the realist perspective to which it is set. Bibliography. Calvocoressi, P.

World Politics Since 1945. 6th edition. Longman. London. 1991 Finnis, Boyle and Grised. Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism. Clarendon Press.

Oxford. 1989 Hedley Bull. The Anarchical Society. 2nd edition. Macmillan. London.

1995 Kegley and Wittkopf. World Politics. 5th edition. St. Martins Press. New York. 1995

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