Regional Deterrence Strategies for New Proliferation Threats

By Kahan, Jerome H. | Strategic Forum, April 1996 | Go to article overview

Regional Deterrence Strategies for New Proliferation Threats


Kahan, Jerome H., Strategic Forum


Conclusions

* The deterrence of armed aggression against the United States, its vital national interests, or its allies has moved beyond the requirements of conventional force deterrence. The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons requires a new strategy to ensure effective deterrence against their use by regional states that could not win in a conventional conflict with the United States.

* Because proliferation has expanded to a number of regional actors, a single strategy is unlikely to be sufficient in deterring states with varied motivations, and social, economic, religious, cultural, and political backgrounds.

* The Unified Commands--principally the Pacific, Central and European Commands--provide a ready-made framework in which general U.S. deterrence strategies can be tailored to each proliferant state. While the Unified Com-mands would shape the individual deterrence strategies, the national command authority (NCA) would retain control of key decisions.

* Guidelines for NBC regional deterrence should include developing credible counterproliferation postures, profiling potential adversaries, tailoring our military capabilities to specific threats, integrating NBC preparedness into exercises and warplans, and actively pursuing coalitions designed to deter regional proliferators from threatening to use or using NBC weapons.

Regional NBC Proliferation Challenges Deterrence Policy

In his latest Annual Report to the President and the Congress, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry stated that "earlier assumptions that conflicts not involving the Soviet Union would be fought solely with conventional weapons needed to be reviewed and new guidance issued." Deterrence is at the center of this unfolding strategy: if nonproliferation policies fail to stop nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons acquisition, the United States needs to be able to deter use or threats of use by regional proliferators when our interests or those of our friends and allies are threatened. From another perspective, this means that we cannot allow potential aggressors to believe that having NBC weapons in their hands will deter the application of superior U.S. military power, conventional or nuclear. But developing a strategy for deterring a growing and disparate group of NBC-armed nations from using or threatening to use these weapons in ways contrary to U.S. security interests poses challenges that differ in kind from the problem of deterring Soviet aggression, which consumed our attention and resources for more than 40 years.

National security policy continues to be centered around the geographic regions--Europe, Pacific, Middle East and South Asia, and Latin America--consistent with the focus of our key security commitments, the nature of our coalitions, and the way we plan and deploy our military forces. Given the relatively small number of known and the potential proliferators, a country-by-country counterproliferation approach is clearly necessary. But practical results can be achieved only through developing country-oriented NBC deterrence policies within the substantive and organizational framework of U.S. regional security policies and programs.

The Role of the Unified Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs)

In structuring NBC deterrence strategies, the roles of the regional CINCs--notably CINCPAC, CINCCENT, and CINCEUR, within whose areas of responsibility (AORs) fall all the NBC proliferators of near-term concern--should be given special attention. For example, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) identified 14 NBC proliferators who either are known to have or are suspected of having nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons programs, at least over the near-to mid-term. These proliferators include: India, Pakistan, and Algeria (nuclear); Egypt, Burma, and Vietnam (chemical); Libya, Syria, and Taiwan (biological and chemical); and China, North Korea, Israel, Iran, and Iraq (nuclear, biological, chemical). …

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