Deterrence, Arms Control, and Disarmament: Toward a Synthesis in National Security Policy

By J. David Singer | Go to book overview

3 Probabilities and Perceptions in Deterrence

In the previous chapter, I sought to present a simple model portraying the interaction between the subjective probabilities and the perceived utilities or disutilities on the part of the potential attacker, and the general elements which go to influence the latter of this pair of estimates, particularly in terms of massive nuclear retaliation as a means of deterring direct nuclear attack on North America. In this chapter, we shall move from the obvious, and more or less objective capability requirements, to the more interesting -- but elusive -- psychological requirements. More specifically, we shall explore a range of deterrent situations whose capability requirements diverge considerably from those of a clear-cut massive retaliation situation, and in which the perceptual or psychological variables are not nearly so evident. Following a discussion of the credibility problem, we will go on to certain special cases of deterrence and some of the over-all problems raised by any deterrent strategy, always addressing ourselves to

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