Strategy after Deterrence

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

2
THE TEMPTATION TO ATTACK: THE INITIAL PERIOD OF WAR

Whether wars can be won in their earliest stages or "initial period" is important to political and military stability in modern Europe. History shows that prospective attackers who anticipate a favorable outcome frequently assume as well that the war will be short. A longer war introduces more uncertainties and shakes up the odds of success. States that seek to deter war, or to defend successfully against surprise, must also pay special attention to the initial period of war. It is the time in which an opponent is likely to maximize success based on deception, surprise, and stratagems. Knowledge of the attacker's potential weaknesses is never more valid to a defender than in the first few weeks or months of war, after which those weaknesses may no longer exist to be exploited. In this chapter, I question how the superpowers and their allies have adapted contemporary forces and doctrines to these conditions, and what future prospects there are for improved stability and deterrence.

Modern war in Europe, should it occur, would almost certainly involve a level of destruction that would preclude protracted fighting on a global scale of the kind that took place in World War II. Much more likely, if any war is at all likely, is a short war in which nuclear escalation is precluded, limited territorial gains are made, and negotiations are conducted between the adversaries while fighting continues. More than several weeks or months of war without nuclear escalation or conventional stalemate seems highly improbable. However, if the political correlation of forces is such that war no longer seems improbable, policymakers and military planners will seek recipes to avoid either stalemated and prolonged conventional

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