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.
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