Deterrence theory is a strategy put forth during the Cold War that encouraged arms build ups to the point where the powers
in question would be too scared to use their weapons. No sides involved would initiate a war for fear of retaliation. Because
the theory asserted that the aggression of one's opponent would be prevented by the showing of military might, the build up
of military force in the United States and in the Soviet Union were seen to be beneficial.
Top of Form Deterrence theory is a defensive strategy developed after World War I and used throughout the Cold War. It
also figures somewhat in the current War on Terrorism. Under the strategy, a government builds up or maintains military
forces and weapons so that other powers will not attack it in fear of a larger retaliation. John Foster Dulles elaborated that
“The heart of the problem is how to deter attack. This... requires that a potential aggressor be left in no doubt that he [or she
would... suffer damage outweighing any possible gains from aggression.”Deterrence is viewed by some as the opposite of
appeasement, where an expansionist government is allowed to absorb some territory to reach a negotiated settlement.
Deterrence can be based on either WMD's, conventional weapons strength, or both
2: Foundation of Deterrence Theory
“The foundations of deterrence theory based on diplomacy “(Schelling). Diplomacy between states is defined as a form of
bargaining that seeks outcomes for each state that though not ideal for either party, are better for both than other
alternatives. In order for diplomacy to succeed, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual
damage. Traditionally in military strategy, mutual pain and suffering are among the results of warfare; however they have
also been incidental and not the primary purpose. In the development of military strategy however, Schelling (1966) argues
the capacity to hurt another state is now used as a motivating factor for other states to avoid it and influence another state's
behavior. In order to be coercive or deter another state, violence has to be anticipated and avoidable by accommodation. It
can therefore be summarized that the use of the power to hurt as bargaining power is the foundation of deterrence theory,
and is most successful when it is held in reserve.
Elements of Deterrence
Deterrence Comprise the following essential element: deterrer, deterred, threat, communication, cradibility, rationality and
Deterrence requires that the threat must be communicated to the deterred. The threat may be effectively
conveyed by gestures, demonstration and possibly by mere presence. For example, A guard dog may effectively carry the
threat it represents to human beings and to other animals even while it is sleeping. Communication is primarily a matter of
producing intended responses channels is secondary but in this context there must be a channel of some sort. A guard dog
would have difficulty in conveying a threat to a blind and deaf adversary with no concept of the nature and function of
guard dogs. in sort of situation the dog would have to abandon threats and bites.
The Credibility of nuclear threat can be defined as the degree of certainty in the mind of the enemy that the
threat will in fact be carried out if the necessity arises. In case the deterred is unable to execute his threat or at the crucial
moment, fails to implement it and withdraws it the Credibility of the threat will be impaired. According to Harkabi two
factors contribute the strengthens the conviction that a threat will be carried out: fear and calculation or the psychological
factor and intellectual factor. when the fact of the threat first with fear. for in the modern world such a threat implies the
performance of a catastrophic act the employment of nuclear weapons. The fear paralyzes him to hesitated in candying out
his contemplated action. Thus it has been claimed that the principle of deterrence lies in intimidation. According ti this
argument it does not matter if the threat is sincere or pretended so long as it achieves the psychological effect of terrifying.
Its importance Ariston necessarily from the authencity of factors become important in the theory of deterrence.kissinger
believes that deterrence is brought about not only by physical but also by a psychological relationship. It is least effective
when the willing to run risked is low however powerful the military capability. The credibility of a threat largely depends
upon capability and intention.
According to G.H synder rationality may be defined as choosing to act in the manner which gives best
promise of maximizing one’s own value positioning the basis of a sober calculation of potential gains and losses and
probilities of enemy action.
Much emphasis has been laid on the proposition that an alternative to the resort to war should be available to
the deterred. What is more the alternative course should be widely perceived to be an honorable one, because if it not so the
deterred may be driven to behave in a desperate manner.
Type of Deterrence:
Some of the predominant types of deterrence have been defined as follows:
1-Offensive Deterrence: This is used to prevent an enemy from resisting some nation which one proposes to take.
2- Defensive Deterrence: Such deterrence is used to prevent an enemy from initiating any action of which on is afraid.
3- Total Deterrence: Deterrence is total if it is effectively checks the use of all shades of force.
4- limited Deterrence: Deterrence is limited if it directed at checking only a portion of an enemy full spectrum of force.
5- Absolute Deterrence: This form of Deterrence is based on some threat which the deterred feels will be absolutely
effectively and break down proof for instance a sanction which is not designed for repealed action as one use of it will be
fatally too many such Deterrence is resorted to in relation to all-out war.
6- Relative Deterrence: is said to be relative if its effectiveness is to be measures not only by the amount of power that it
holds in check but also by the incentives to aggression which forms the presence behind that power.
7- Deterrence by Denial: Deterrence based on denial requires convincing an opponent that he will not attain his goals on
8- Deterrence by Punishment: This involves threatening to destroy large portions of an opponent’s civilian population
9- Direct or Passive Deterrence: Defensive or offensive Deterrence action is direct if used between two oppents.In other
words it is the Deterrence of a direct offensive assault upon one’s own nation.
10-Indirect or Active Deterrence: Defensive or offensive Deterrence action is indirect if its use for benefit of third party.
Active Deterrence is the Deterrence of military aggression against allies and other power. It is also called “Extended
3: The Concept of Deterrence
The use of military threats as a means to deter international crises and war has been a central topic of international security
research for decades. Research has predominantly focused on the theory of rational deterrence to analyse the conditions
under which conventional deterrence is likely to succeed or fail. Alternative theories however have challenged the rational
deterrence theory and have focused on organisational theory and cognitive psychology.
The concept of deterrence can be defined as the use of threats by one party to convince another party to refrain from
initiating some course of action. A threat serves as a deterrent to the extent that it convinces its target not to carry out the
intended action because of the costs and losses that target would incur. In international security, a policy of deterrence
generally refers to threats of military retaliation directed by the leaders of one state to the leaders of another in an attempt to
prevent the other state from resorting to the threat of use of military force in pursuit of its foreign policy goals.
4:Categories of deterrence policy
As outlined by Huth a policy of deterrence can fit into two broad categories being
preventing an armed attack against a state’s own territory (known as direct deterrence);
preventing an armed attack against another state (known as extended deterrence).
Situations of direct deterrence often occur when there is a territorial dispute between neighboring states in which major
powers (e.g. the United States) do not directly intervene. On the other hand, situations of extended deterrence often occur
when a great power becomes involved. It is the latter than has generated the majority of interest in academic literature.
Building on these two broad categories, Huth goes on to outline that deterrence policies may be implemented in response to
a pressing short-term threat (known as immediate deterrence) or as strategy to prevent a military conflict or short term
threat from arising (known as general deterrence).
A successful deterrence policy must be considered in not only military terms, but also in political terms. In military terms,
deterrence success refers to preventing state leaders from issuing military threats and actions that escalate peacetime
diplomatic and military cooperation into a crisis or militarized confrontation which threatens armed conflict and possibly
war. The prevention of crises of wars however is not the only aim of deterrence. In addition, defending states must be able
to resist the political and military demands of a potential attacking nation. If armed conflict is avoided at the price of
diplomatic concessions to the maximum demands of the potential attacking nation under the threat of war, then it cannot be
claimed that deterrence has succeeded.
Rational Deterrence Theory
The predominant approach to theorizing about deterrence has entailed the use of rational choice and game-theoretic models
of decision making. Deterrence theorists have consistently argued that deterrence success is more likely if a defending
state's deterrent threat is credible to an attacking state. Huth outlines that a threat is considered credible if the defending
state possesses both the military capabilities to inflict substantial costs on an attacking state in an armed conflict, and if the
attacking state believes that the defending state is resolved to use its available military forces. Huth goes on to explain the
four key factors for consideration under rational deterrence theory being (i) the military balance; (ii) signaling and
bargaining power; (iii) reputations for resolve; and (iv) interests at stake.
The Military Balance
Deterrence is often directed against state leaders who have specific territorial goals that they seek to attain either by seizing
disputed territory in a limited military attack or by occupying disputed territory after the decisive defeat of the adversary's
armed forces. In either case, the strategic orientation of potential attacking states is generally short term and driven by
concerns about military cost and effectiveness. For successful deterrence, defending states need the military capacity to
respond quickly and in strength to a range of contingencies. Where deterrence often fails is when either a defending state or
an attacking state under or overestimate the others' ability to undertake a particular course of action.Signaling and
The central problem for a state that seeks to communicate a credible deterrent threat through diplomatic or military actions
is that all defending states have an incentive to act as if they are determined to resist an attack, in the hope that the attacking
state will back away from military conflict with a seemingly resolved adversary. If all defending states have such
incentives, then potential attacking states may discount statements made by defending states along with any movement of
military forces as merely bluffs. In this regards, rational deterrence theorists have argued that costly signals are required to
communicate the credibility of a defending state's resolve. Costly signals are those actions and statements that clearly
increase the risk of a military conflict and also increase the costs of backing down from a deterrent threat. States that are
bluffing will be unwilling to cross a certain threshold of threat and military action for fear of committing themselves to an
Reputations for Resolve
There are three different arguments that have been developed in relation to the role of reputations
in influencing deterrence outcomes. The first argument focuses on a defending states's past behaviour in international
disputes and crises, which creates strong beliefs in a potential attacking state about the defending state's expected behaviour
in future conflicts. The credibilities of a defending state's policies are arguably linked over time, and reputations for resolve
have a powerful causal impact on an attacking state's decision whether to challenge either general or immediate deterrence.
The second approach argues that reputations have a limited impact on deterrence outcomes because the credibility of
deterrence is heavily determined by the specific configuration of military capabilities, interests at stake, and political
constraints faced by a defending state in a given situation of attempted deterrence. The argument of this school of thought is
that potential attacking states are not likely to draw strong inferences about a defending states resolve from prior conflicts
because potential attacking states do not believe that a defending state's past behaviour is a reliable predictor of future
behaviour. The third approach is a middle ground between the first two approaches. It argues that potential attacking states
are likely to draw reputational inferences about resolve from the past behaviour of defending states only under certain
conditions. The insight is the expectation that decision makers will use only certain types of information when drawing
inferences about reputations, and an attacking state updates and revises its beliefs when the unanticipated behaviour of a
defending state cannot be explained by case-specific variables.
Interests at Stake
Although costly signaling and bargaining power are more well established arguments in rational deterrence theory, the
interests of defending states are not as well known, and attacking states may look beyond the short term bargaining tactics
of a defending state and seek to determine what interests are at stake for the defending state that would justify the risks of a
military conflict. The argument here is that defending states that have greater interests at stake in a dispute will be more
resolved to use force and be more willing to endure military losses in order to secure those interests. Even less well
established arguments are the specific interests that are more salient to state leaders such as military interests versus
Furthermore, Huth argues that both supporters and critics of rational deterrence theory agree that an unfavourable
assessment of the domestic and international status quo by state leaders can undermine or severely test the success of
deterrence. In a rational choice approach, if the expected utility of not using force is reduced by a declining status quo
position, then deterrence failure is more likely, since the alternative option of using force becomes relatively more attracti.
Nuclear Power and Deterrence
Schelling is prescriptive in outlining the impact of the development of nuclear power in the analysis of military power and
deterrence. For the first time in history, human beings have the power to use weapons which could destroy not only their
enemies but theemselves and their entire species from earth, and have developed such weapons against which there is no
conceivable defense. Another important factor is the speed with which nuclear weapons can be deployed and inflict severe
damage. A nuclear armed force can inflict extreme damamge in a first strike before any other forces ae engaged. Such
extreme pain and damage through nuclear weapons can be the primary instruments of politically coercive action which can
be applied to intimidate or deter another state. These instruments allow deterrence policies to become increasingly powerful
to the extent that the threat of use of nuclear power by a state is credible.
United States' Policy of Deterrence
United States policy of deterrence during the Cold War underwent significant
variations. The early stages of the Cold War were generally characterized by ideology of containment, an aggressive stance
on behalf of the United States especially regarding developing nations under their sphere of influence. This period was
characterized by numerous proxy wars throughout most of the globe, particularly Africa, Asia, Central America, and South
America. A notable such conflict was the Korean War. With the US pullout in Vietnam, the normalization of US relations
with China, and the Sino-Soviet Split, the policy of Containment was abandoned and a new policy of détente was
established, whereby peaceful coexistence was sought between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although all factors
listed above contributed to this shift, the most important factor was probably the rough parity achieved in stockpiling
nuclear weapons with the clear capability of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Therefore, the period of détente was
characterized by a general reduction in the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and a thawing of the
Cold War, lasting from the late 1960s until the start of the 1980s. The doctrine of mutual nuclear deterrence characterized
relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during this period, and present relations with Russia.
A third shift occurred with President Ronald Reagan's arms build-up during the 1980s. Reagan attempted to justify this
policy in part due to concerns of growing Soviet influence in Latin America and the new republic of Iran, established after
the Iranian Revolution of 1979. While the army was dealing with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the spread of nuclear
technology to other nations beyond the United States and Russia, the concept of deterrence took on a broader multinational
dimension. The US policy on post–Cold War deterrence was outlined in 1995 in a document called "Essentials of Post–
Cold War Deterrence".This document explains that while relations with Russia continue to follow the traditional
characteristics of Mutual Nuclear Deterrence, due both nations continuing MAD, US policy of deterrence towards nations
with minor nuclear capabalities should ensure through threats of immense retaliation (or even preemptive action) that they
do not threaten the United States, its interests, or allies. The document explains that such threats must also be used to ensure
that nations without nuclear technology refrain from developing nuclear weapons and that a universal ban precludes any
nation from maintaining chemical or biological weapons. The current tensions with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear
programs are due in part to the continuation of this policy of deterrence.
Criticism of Deterrence Theory
Deterrence theory is criticized for its assumptions about opponent rationales: first, it is
argued that suicidal or psychotic opponents may not be deterred by either forms of deterrence.s Second, if two enemy states
both possess nuclear weapons, Country "X" may try to gain a first strike advantage by suddenly launching weapons at
Country "Y", with a view to destroying its enemy's nuclear launch silos thereby rendering Country "Y" incapable of a
response. Third, diplomatic misunderstandings and/or opposing political ideologies may lead to escalating mutual
perceptions of threat, and a subsequent arms race which elevates the risk of actual war. An arms race is inefficient in its
optimal output, as all countries involved expend resources on armaments which would not have been created if the others
had not expended resources. This is a form of positive feedback. Fourth, escalation of perceived threat can make it easier
for certain measures to be inflicted on a population by its government, such as restrictions on civil liberties, the creation of
a military-industrial complex, and military expenditures resulting in higher taxes and increasing budget deficits.
The basic goal of my work was to know how deterrence can help to prevent war between two oppenents,at the
end I reach this conclusion that the primary objective of nuclear weapons is end will ramain,the adversary not to indulge in
hostile action because the costs of such action will outweighs the gains. The objective thus appears to be a valid one.
In the post-Cold war era, the world is increasingly concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction, particularly
among fanatical leaders and terrorists. Such weapons include not only nuclear but also chemical and biological weapons. In
this regard, some reassurance may be drawn from the fact that till date, nuclear weapons have contributed significantly to
the deterrence of states those posses’ chemical and biological weapons.
It is true that possession of weapons of mass destruction by regional powers has challenged the cold war standard of
deterrence based on punishment and retaliation. Today regional power view nuclear-chemical-biological weapons much
differently. To them these weapons are weapons of the weak against the strong. what needs to be noted is that in the history
of nuclear weapons, the principal motive for developing such devices has been the fear of nuclear asymmetry.
My major findings are that the ownership of nuclear weapons changes the psychology of their possessors and makes them
more careful because they are unable to come up with a way to use the weapons for any benefit. indeed nuclear weapons
make both nuclear and conventional war less probable