Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

By Edward Rhodes | Go to book overview

4
CREDIBLE COMMITMENT AND MODES OF COMMITMENT

THE HEART of the problem of nuclear deterrence in a MAD environment is the difficulty of establishing a credible commitment to an effective coercive strategy. This chapter proceeds first by exploring the logical elements of credible commitment, then by considering the three logically distinct possible modes of commitment--commitment-through-rationality, commitment- through-denial-of-choice, and commitment-through-irrationality--and finally by examining the relationship between credible commitment and actual commitment.


CREDIBLE COMMITMENT

Even if an opponent does have a contingent strategy--that is, even if an opponent is coercible--coercive power will not exist unless the coercer credibly commits himself to an effective coercive strategy. My neighbor will not be deterred from trespassing in my garden--even if he has a contingent strategy based on my ability to harass him, break his windows, or burn down his house--unless I am credibly committed to do one or more of these things. My neighbor must estimate that I will execute some effective coercive strategy.

The concept of credible commitment thus involves two parts. First, there is the notion of commitment. Second, there is the notion of credibility.

Commitment to a strategy suggests that the committed actor has arranged that, for whatever reason, he will actually carry out the strategy ex post, after the opponent yields or fails to yield. Credible

-107-

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Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • INTROOUCTION 1
  • 1 - Mad and the Nuclear Deterrence Problem 19
  • 2 - Rationality and Irrationality 47
  • 3 - Coercive Power and Coercive Strategies 82
  • 4 - Credible Commitment and Modes of Commitment 107
  • 5 - Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Limitation 135
  • 6 - Doomsday Machines 155
  • 7 - Coercion and Contingently Irrational Behavior 171
  • 8 - Theory and Policy 203
  • Notes 231
  • Index 265
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