Strategic Impasse: Offense, Defense, and Deterrence Theory and Practice

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

7

Controlling Escalation in Europe

Conflict termination deals with the purposeful limitation on the objectives for which states and other actors fight and on the means by which they conduct their struggle. The termination of a particular war does not necessarily mean that fighting among the same combatants is precluded in the future. Conflicts also vary in their mix of political and strictly military elements. Some lean entirely in the direction of political competition and struggle, some altogether toward the military, and there are many gradations in between. Termination of conflict in one form may transmute it into another if states remain antagonistic toward one another.

This chapter sketches the conceptual outline of war or conflict termination as it has been applied by Western military thinkers. The Soviet view of conflict termination is less adequately understood. For the superpowers to collaborate in terminating any war involving their forces or those of their close allies, they would have to have established prior to war measures of intrawar accommodation, or they would have to improvise them after war began. Although the Western deterrence literature is relatively rich on the problem of crisis management and war prevention, it is comparatively deficient in the area of conflict termination.

The issue of war termination in Europe might be judged a problem of low probability, but it is also the case of worst severity should crisis slide into war. A superpower nuclear conflict is more likely to grow out of a conventional war in Europe than from any other source for many reasons, including the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe, the U.S. nuclear deterrence umbrella extended over NATO Europe, and the vola-

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