Strategy after Deterrence

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

3
LIMITING WAR: ON THE EXTENSION OF DETERRENCE INTO MILITARY CONFLICT

"CONVENTIONAL" DETERRENCE?

Chapter 2 considered the prospects for the outbreak of war in a period of transition from primarily nuclear to primarily conventional deterrence in Europe. This chapter supposes that efforts to prevent war may not always succeed, and it asks what the implications are for present and future superpower strategy. Can war under present or future conditions of technology and policy, and between superpowers and their allies, be limited? No question is more difficult to answer than this. The mere posing of the question creates intellectual perturbations among those who are dedicated to the proposition that deterrence simply must not fail in Europe, or in any direct U.S.-Soviet confrontation elsewhere.

This may be well and good, but when one extends the notion of deterrence into conventional war, and especially into general coalition war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, one borrows from a bank with dwindling assets. The curiosity of the 1980s was the fascination of European and U.S. strategists (who often were of different ideological persuasions) with "conventional deterrence," as if concepts developed from nuclear strategy could be easily adapted to conventional. The assumption was that the logic of deterrence could explain historical outbreaks of

This chapter includes material that first appeared in my monograph, Nuclear War Termination, published by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, in 1989. I am grateful to Professor Desmond Ball for his encouragement of my research on this topic.

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