Perfect Deterrence

Perfect Deterrence

Perfect Deterrence

Perfect Deterrence

Synopsis

This book provides the first general analysis of deterrence since the end of the Cold War, offering a new approach to its assumptions, and analyzing them using non-cooperative game theory. Drawing on numerous historical examples, the authors focus on the relationship among capability, preferences, credibility, and outcomes to achieve a new understanding of threats and responses. The book's distinctive approach yields some surprising conclusions, indicating that credible threats to respond to attack can sometimes make an attack more likely, and that incredible response threats can sometimes promote peace.

Excerpt

Our purpose in this book is to develop a general theory of deterrence, applicable across the entire spectrum of human interactions, not restricted to any particular time period nor specific to any particular technology. Our starting point is the inadequacy of the standard formulation – classical deterrence theory – which we see as logically inconsistent, empirically inaccurate, and prescriptively deficient. All human conflict, we argue, shares a common dynamic that is best understood in terms of its inherent logic. We have tried to construct a theory of deterrence that balances parsimony with policy relevance, a theory that neither exaggerates nor understates critical variables. We believe that the theory of deterrence we develop in this book approaches this ideal.

Since classical deterrence theory is largely a byproduct of the Cold War era, it should be no surprise that its development has been inordinately influenced by the hostile relationship of the United States and the Soviet Union and by the haunting specter of nuclear weapons. But now that the Cold War has ended, it should be easier to see that deterrence is a universal phenomenon that operates across cultures, across technologies, and across millennia. As such, it requires a more general treatment than is typically found in the literature of international relations.

For reasons we explain later, we call our theory Perfect Deterrence. We do not claim, however, that Perfect Deterrence Theory addresses all of the inadequacies of classical deterrence theory, only its most glaring deficiencies. In particular, Perfect Deterrence Theory makes consistent use of the rationality postulate and is prima facie in accord with the empirical record. As well, it constitutes a framework that, with appropriate calibration, can be used to explain past, present, and . . .

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