"Crime and Punishment" - Deterrence and its Failure in Theory and PracticeŞanlı Bahadır Koç - 2001-2.
Turkish and American foreign policies both reputed to be mainly based on deterrence. But although American policy greatly benefited from insights the deterrence theory provided, Turkish foreign policy was not informed by the theory of deterrence. Of course Turkey employed deterrence tactics and strategies, but the impact of theory on policy and strategies was minimal if not non-existent. The author encountered no study of Turkish foreign policy which discusses deterrence theory in detail.
The core of deterrence theory consists of assertions that leaders undertake a rational cost-calculus before acting, that their calculus can be manipulated from the outside, and that threats are an effective means of shifting that calculus to make proscribed behavior unattractive. Deterrence is not and should not be the preoccupation of military people, hawks or hardliners. It is about the efficient use of the threat of force, not the use of force itself. Deterrence theory deals with questions like ‘How is force to be manipulated to achieve political ends?’, ‘how can wars be avoided?’ A better understanding of the dynamics of deterrence may help to avoid unnecessary violence. Deterrence dynamics are at work in a variety of environment including criminology, collective bargaining, economics, parents relationship with children. But the concept is mostly associated with international politics. Deterrence theory is ‘probably the most influential school of thought in the study of international relations
’. It is one of the key concepts of international security. Simply, it means dissuasion by means of threat. Proponents of ‘rational deterrence theory’ contend that it is conceptually sound, a good predictor of strategic behavior, and a successful strategy of conflict management. This paper will try to find out whether it is really so. It will try to map its strengths and weakness and the possible ways to refine and improve the theory. What leads to deterrence failures? Is it due to a deficiency in theory or poor implementation? What are the structural impediments to successful deterrence and what measures should be taken to make it more effective?
Though it was known earlier, deterrence was articulated and become an explicit basis of policy only in this century. The study and practice of deterrence as a discrete foreign policy phenomenon did not become prominent until 1940s. After the Second World War, nuclear weapons gave it an additional importance and emergency in studying deterrence. Introduction of air power, strategic bombers, long-range missiles all had important influences on deterrence. There may be qualitative differences in the applicability of deterrence theory for different levels of conflict. What works between superpowers may not work in regional conflicts, or the dynamics of nuclear deterrence may be seriously different from the conventional one, or military deterrence from non-military deterrence. What worked in the past may not work now or in the future
Schelling defines deterrence as ‘the successful and efficient non-use of the threat of force’ Ned Lebow’s is a little longer:“Deterrence consists essentially of an effort by one actor to persuade an opponent not to take an action of some kind against his interests by convincing the opponent that the costs and risks of doing so will outweigh what he hopes to gain thereby
”. According to Jervis deterrence is “the ways in which an actor manipulates threats to harm others in order to coerce them into doing what he desires
There are four basic components of deterrence: commitment, capability, credibility and rationality. The essence of deterrence is the ability to convince a state, which has it in mind to go to war with you, that no such advantageous profit and loss assessment is possible. First step in formulating a deterrence policy is to weigh the interests of one’s country that are engaged in the area that may be threatened by hostile action and to assess how important they are. Next step is to formulate and convey to the opponent a commitment to defend those interests. The deterring power backs its commitments by threats to respond if the opponent acts. Such threats must be both credible and sufficiently potent in the eyes of the opponent. They should pose a level of costs and risks that he regards as of sufficient magnitude to overcome his motivation to challenge the defending power’s position. There are two interdependent dimensions of credibility. First the defending power must convey to the opponent that it has the will and resolution to defend the interests in question. Second, it must possess capabilities for doing so that it regards – and persuades the opponent to regard- as appropriate and usable for the defense of those interests. Rationality. Each side must be sufficiently rational to base its conduct on the above. Auxiliary assumptions of the deterrence model are as follows: 1) the attacker is highly aggressive and has far-reaching aims; 2) the attacker and the defender share very few, if any, common interests; 3) concessions by a deterrer will be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the attacker; 4) the attacker pays close attention to the past behavior of the deterrer in assessing the credibility of the deterrer’s current policies; 5) the adversary understands that the state is defensive; 6) the leaders on both sides are concerned mainly with the external situation
Four set of variables can be identified that are likely to play a critical role in determining the credibility and stability the defender’s deterrent actions. They play a crucial role in the potential attacker’s calculus of deterrence
: 1)the balance of military forces between potential attacker and defender; 2) the interests at stake for the defender; 3) the past behavior of the defender in confrontations with states 4)the bargaining behavior of the defender during the immediate deterrence confrontation with the potential attacker. Most of the theories of deterrence fail to specify adequate criteria for assessing credibility. They encourage tautology; commitments that are challenged are judged ex post facto not to have been credible.
Cold War was conducive to the development of deterrence theory because the level of conflict was high, common interests were perceived to be few, the conflict during the cold war was all-encompassing, both sides regard the opponent as aggressive. Although nuclear weapons are not necessary for deterrence to work, it provides the right environment, helps to concentrate the minds because the stakes are too high. There can be four waves deterrence theory. First wave which identified with Bernard Brodie and Jacob Viner, was a hasty collection of generalizations at the beginning of the nuclear age. Their impact was generally regarded to be limited. Academics were not yet involved. Second wave, probably the most influential on policy, is identified with Thomas C. Schelling, and Albert Wohlstetter of Rand Corporation. They were highly influential on policy and generally said to be the main architects of the Cold War deterrence policies. They brought a wealth of concepts, trained a generation of scholars and statesmen on the subtle art of deterrence. They based deterrence mainly on Chicken Game and emphasized credibility, reputation and resolve
. Schelling, originally an economist, proposed new concepts (first and second-strike capability, reciprocal fear of surprise attack), and some counter-intuitive tactics such as threats that leave something to chance, severing communication links, feigning anger, irrationality, loss of control over militant factions in one’s own organizations
. Third wave, brought case studies, started to test the main insights of the theory with cases from the past. Until the third wave there was a lack of search for supporting evidence. Deterrence theory was largely deductive. There were few attempts to systematize and extend the theory. Third wave recover some of these weaknesses. Fourth wave introduced cognitive psychology and the limits on rationality and perception which are central to the theory. A more recent trend is a highly formal and mathematical one.TYPES of DETERRENCE
The defender may threaten military retaliation so as to prevent attack on his homeland territory (direct deterrence), or against a third state or piece of territory (extended deterrence
). The threat of attack may be in the short term (immediate deterrence), or a longer –term future possibility (general deterrence). The deterrer’s threat of retaliation may be based on either the military capability to repulse an attack and thereby the deny the attacker its battlefield objectives and the prevent the loss of territory or the capability to inflict heavy military losses on the attacker in a protracted armed conflict of attrition, deterrence by ‘denial’ versus ‘punishment’. There may be qualitative differences between the dynamics of these different types of deterrence. For instance, denial is easier but less effective than punishment. Compellence is usually more difficult than deterrence. It is safe to claim that ‘denial is inherently a weaker deterrent than punishment’
Extended deterrence is inherently less credible and more difficult than basic deterrence. Convincing opponents that its commitment to a regional ally is strong is certainly more difficult than deterring an attack on one’s own land. In extended deterrence, forward positioning is a more reliable deterrence policy. In a nuclear environment, dynamics of deterrence may be considerably different. Its main reason is that in this environment superiority is not ‘usable’. We must also distinguish between deterring an aggression and deterring a pattern of behavior e.g. supporting terrorism, declaring independence in Northern Iraq, trying to acquire nuclear weapons etc.
An important concept in deterrence theory is bluffing. Brodie defines bluffing as ‘deliberately trying to sound more determined or bellicose than one actually felt
’ One of the paradoxical aspects of deterrence is that when somebody lose a chicken type of conflict, second time he will be more inclined to resist aggression ‘to save his face’, to prove ‘everybody’ that the last occasion was not a representative behavior of him. But the aggressor generally regard that previous conduct as a sign of the weakness of the opponent and tend to force him into retreat. ‘Reputations for carrying out threats do not influence estimates of credibility because …reputations are so important that states must rebuild them when they are damaged. If you have been caught bluffing poker, are others likely to call you in the next round in the belief that you bluff a lot or are they unlikely to do so because they think that you know it is no longer safe to bluff?
’ It is the paradoxical nature of deterrence that in which each side hopes to gain security not by being able to protect itself, but by threatening to inflict unacceptable damage on the other.HOW AND WHY DETERRENCE FAILS
To put deterrence failures into perspective we should remember that human life on this planet began with a deterrence failure when Adam and Eve opted the taste the forbidden fruitJ ‘We must not equate failures of deterrence policy with failures of deterrence theory...The failure of a deterrent that was badly designed or implemented would not falsify the theory, although it would raise question of why the state produced such a suboptimal policy’
. If a threat (or level of capability and the presumed ability to deploy it) succeeds, rational deterrence scored a success. If it fails, proponents argue, it can almost always be argued that the threat was too small, not taken seriously, badly communicated
. But is it? Deterrence may fail when:
Interests are not easily delienable. When both sides think they are defending their legitimate interests. Commitments, to be respected, cannot challenge or interfere with a vital interest of an adversary.
Threats are weak. You may threaten to hurt somebody, but it may still fell short of what he thinks he will get by doing the thing you don’t want him to do.
Threats are vague. The threats or the consequences of opponent’s action may not be clear-cut. e.g. ‘They will find out what we will do’, ‘We will decide it when..’ etc. Commitments must be defined clearly. The more specific the commitment the more likely it is to be believed. Ambiguity in deterrence may tempt risk-prone opponents to test your threats. Also costs of war are not always clear. Not because the defender does not make them clear enough, but an inevitable uncertainty, what Clausewitz calls ‘fog of war’, surrounds it.
Threats are late. Deterrence may fail when the defender articulates the threats only after the aggressor begins to act (e.g. Cuba in 1962).
The threats may be unheard. Because of ‘noise’, because they are not forcefully and repeatedly conveyed. Commitments can be made to appear ambiguous because of contradictory signals. Even clear unambiguous signals may not suffice to impress he existence of a commitment upon the minds of an adversary’s leaders. Their attention may be focused elsewhere. Or, the commitment can fly in the face of these leaders’ expectations about how the nation in question will behave. As a result they may not be cognitively disposed to recognize the commitment. For all these reasons it is imperative to make commitments clear and salient through repetition, the use of a number of different channels to communicate them, and their linkage to other important recognized interests or commitments.
The threats may be contradictory. e.g. when there is clear differences and contradictions by what and how Powell and Rumsfeld threatens to do if Saddam does not comply with the US demand, or as what the US Ambassador Gillespie said to Saddam in 25 July 1990 contradicted with what he said in the same meeting.
The aggressor may thought that time is running against him, when the threat represented a cost that was less than a cost expected to be borne in the future e.g. Japan’s before Pearl Harbor, Germany before the WWI. There may be tensions between ‘war now versus war later’ which may lead to ‘risk war now to avoid war later
When challengers are able to design around threats, to use fait accomplis. ‘Deterrence often fails in stages
’. Opponents generally make limited probes to estimate the defender’s resolve.
When the aggressor does not understand the kind of war which the status quo state is threatening to wage. The defender’s task is not only to convince the adversary it would fight if pushed too far, but also that it would continue to fight even after the initial reverses.
When an adversary believes the scale of its attacks would be below a threshold,
The source of the attack would not be known and when one adversary might attack in ways that made another seem responsible.
When attack is unauthorized.
Sometimes there is no gross threats but situations which require a more subtle actions that are susceptible to multiple interpretations, then the ‘noise’ in the international communications system, the inadequacies in the other’s machinery for processing information, and the cognitive limits on rationality may be sufficient to defeat the policies.Weaknesses, Problems and Limitations of, and Criticisms toward, the Deterrence Theory
Some critics claim that the insights deterrence produces are either flawed or trivial. Some of the main criticism that is directed to the theory are as follows.
Deterrence theory tells nothing what statesmen already do not know by instinct and intuition. It is ‘so vague as to accommodate almost all behavior almost all behavior and that it merely summarized what statesmen and almost all casual observers already knew’
The ambiguity of the deterrence theory makes it extremely hard to disconfirm. “Is Rational Deterrence Theory confirmed by the fact that the Russians withdrew their missiles from Cuba, or disconfirmed because they deploy them in the first place-and were able to exact some concessions from the United States as the price of withdrawal?
Deterrence theory assumes states as rational actors. Deterrence rests upon the assumption of a ‘rational’ opponent, one who can be expected to calculate the utility of his alternative courses of action on the basis of available information. Rationality involves an end/means calculation, a cost benefit analysis, probability calculus, and a defined and ordered set of priorities. Humans are said to be rational creatures which are capable of weighing consequences and determining efficient means for achieving their ends. Rationality which reduces all human behavior to a set of interests and preferences independent of things such as values, culture, or history is highly problematic concept. One should not equate rational expected utility arguments with the claim that all people will behave the same way in the same situation. This would be ignoring the individual level analysis. If each person is rational, but has different values and means-ends beliefs, then behavior will be idiosyncratic. Depending on actor’s risk propensity and relative emphasis on loss or gain the resultant behavior may considerably differ. Expected utility theories are not necessarily parsimonious: to yield predictions or explanations they often require a great deal of information about particular individuals and situations.
Cognitive psychology needs to be more incorporated to the deterrence theory. There are certain limits to rationality. How one fails to grasp the reality fully, how misperceptions bound to occur, which type of misperception tends to occur more frequently than others and in what circumstances, how one should convey the deterrent signals and messages to the opponent more effectively and efficiently; all these should be studied more. Misperception is the main impediment to rationality. There are different forms of misperception. Robert White classifies misperception relevant to deterrence as follows: 1) diabolical enemy image, 2) virile self-image, 3) moral self-image, 4) selective inattention, 5) absence of empathy, 6) military overconfidence. John G. Stoessinger’s classification is different: 1) a leader’s perception of himself, 2) his perception of his adversary’s character, 3) his perceptions of the adversary’s intentions, 4) his perceptions of his adversary’s power and capabilities, and 5) a leader’s capacity for empathy with his counterplayer on the other side
. “Erroneous judgments regarding how the adversary defines his interests and perceives the threats to those interests – including our intentions and capabilities – bias our expectations regarding his future behavior and his response to our own behavior. These misperceptions of the adversary’s perceptions therefore lead directly to misperception of his intentions
Four barriers to accurate perception which reduce actors’ sensitivity to new information and limit their ability to respond to unexpected situations. Overconfidence – that people overestimate their cognitive abilities; not seeing value trade-offs; assimilation of new information to preexisting beliefs, and defensive avoidance.
Overconfidence is probably fed by three factors: 1) Many of our cognitive processes are inaccessible to us; 2) People often rely more than they realize on analogies with past events, especially recent events that they or their country have experienced first-hand; 3) Lack of self-awareness, that people not only assimilate incoming information to their pre-existing beliefs, but do not know they are doing so. Consequences of over-confidence are as follows: Statesmen are likely to treat opposing views quite cavalierly since they are often quite sure that their own beliefs are correct. Decision-makers tend to overestimate their ability to detect subtle clues to other’s intentions. Because decision-makers fail to realize the degree to which factors other than the specific events they are facing influence their interpretations, their considerations of the evidence will be less rational than they think it is and less rational than some deterrence strategies require.
Incomplete information, differing rules for assessing evidence, and the possibility of multiple interpretations generally allow for the construction of at least several different realities of any complex social interaction. Although most discussions concentrate on the aggressor’s rationality, but we musk also ask ourselves “whether the status quo power has the intellectual and political resources to produce an appropriate deterrence policy
”. Clearly deterrence theory overestimates the rationality of decision-makers, especially under high stress. It is not clear how rational men have to be for deterrence theory to apply. Also rationality is twofold – sometimes rationality requires belligerence but irrational actors may be too passive when it was more rational to be active
Deterrence theory assumes states as unitary actors and ignores domestic politics and bureaucratic politics. Statesman respond to not only to foreign but also domestic stimuli.
If powerful domestic groups advocate conflicting policies or have beliefs that are ‘unsophisticated’ and incompatible with deterrence, then policy will differ from that which theory predicts. Also due to a competition and bargaining among different departments of bureaucracy, the resulting compromise policy may not confirm to the requirements and predictions of deterrence theory.
Deterrence theory is too much pre-occupied with military deterrence. But it is not necessarily with military power that one deters the opponent. One can deter with economic instruments, or more generally a mix of military, economic and –also badly ignored in theory- legal means.
Deterrence theory takes high level of conflict as granted. It ignores low level conflict relations, and relations with partners, allies and friends although there are important, though less dramatic deterrent dynamics at work in these relations. It takes zero-sum game as given though in real life parties generally have some level of common interests. The origins of wars and courses of crises are much more frequently studied than the defusing of tensions and the diminution of conflict. The problem increase when we consider deterrence theory as a guide for statesmen. At best, it tells them how to maintain a hostile and dangerous relationship. Applying deterrence tactics to a state that is not a menace is likely to create a great deal of unnecessary conflict. Deterrence theory overestimates the competitive element in international politics and overlooks the interests that the two sides have in common beyond the desire to avoid mutual destruction
. Such interests could provide each with an incentive to be moderate, to sacrifice some chance of a short-run victory, and to seek agreements rather that benefit both sides.
Like its godfather realism, deterrence theory has a problem with change. It fails to explain and predict change in behavior, policies, interests and assumptions. “Rational deterrence theory” acknowledges that preferences or estimates change but says nothing about how, when and why this occurs
. Deterrence is a dynamic process. Opponents will look for ways to overcome it. Deterrence, even when it is necessary and effective, is a strategy to buy time. Opponent may accumulate more power, devote more resources, and come back later more powerful. Your deterrent may have been effective once, or for some time, but due to a dramatic change, or a silent accumulation small changes in international relations, or in the domestic politics of the defender, or the aggressor, or some decisive third party, that deterrent may no longer be or seen as effective. What Samuel Johnson said about friendship applies to deterrence as well: You must keep it under constant repair
Deterrence theory ignores rewards, inducements, and compromise. It is exclusively preoccupied with threats of punishment as a means of persuading an adversary not to challenge a situation in which there is disagreement. Theory holds that swiftness, severity, and certainty of punishment are the key elements the success of deterrence. Positive incentives for remaining at the status quo or peaceful resolution of conflicts are ignored
. Inducements as well as punishments to preserve peace can be employed. Theory should take this more into consideration. “Theorists paid little attention to rewards, even those who asserted that rewards were important did little empirical research to support their argument
”. Sometimes rewards and compromises may be more effective than threats. Scholars have focused on war, and cases of clear-cut victory. But in normal life such cases are exception rather than the rule. Generally both sides have to compromise tough one party may have compromised more than the other. “Decision-makers who are guided by the theory may ignore rewards and rely too heavily on threats and force
Deterrence theory says little about how to change motives. It regards aggressive motives as given. It says next to nothing about cooperation. But in real life even deadly opponents cooperate. Very little is said about transforming hostile relations into peaceful ones.
Deterrence theory is status-quo biased. It is too much pre-occupied with the defender’s point of view and ignores the challenger dilemmas. Also who is defender and who is challenger may not always be clear. In fact probably both sides regard themselves as the defender and the other side as the aggressor. This is not just a technical problem, but one with significant theoretical consequences
Deterrence theory is ethno-centric. – It ignores cultural factors. Some cultures do not a lack of rationality, but a have a different kind of rationality. Deterrence theory is ethnocentric in the sense of seeing others as being like Western. But it is not alone among theories of international relations which are mostly and mainly grounded in the experience, culture and values of the West.
Deterrence can easily lead to spiral conflict, escalation. “Too much deterrence, or deterrence applied inappropriately to a frightened and vulnerable adversary, can fuel an arms race that makes both sides less rather than more secure and provoke the aggression that it is designed to prevent. As with any medicine, the key to successful deterrence is to administer correctly the proper dosage
”. Deterrence may deepen the problem of “crisis instability,” i.e. the danger that one side would launch a first strike, not because it was aggressive or believed that war was preferable to peace, but because it was sure that the other side was about to attack and believed that striking first was better than striking second
. During the Cold War, the superpowers interpreted the tension and crises as evidence of the need for even more deterrence.
Deterrence theory lefts politics out. ‘Both the value and deficiency of deterrence theory lie in the tendency to make the calculus more manageable by depoliticizing it’
Deterrence is heavily context dependent. As a deterrence situation changes, so does the commitment/threat calculation. The situational context may be so important that it dominated the cost-benefit analysis of the attacker
. Since deterrence is heavily context dependent, it is often difficult to design a strategy that will deter all options available to the dissatisfied power. States often have multiple options available for challenging a status quo situation to manage
Utility can be calculated differently by different but equally rational actors. Some people may rationally minimize expected losses while others may minimize expected gains. People can also be risk-prone or risk-averse without deviating from the norm of rationality.
Measurable elements constrain choice, but not determine it; they may constrain it least in an epochial crisis when apparent choices lie not between war and a palatable peace, but between a set of disastrous alternatives that seem to differ only by degree.PROBLEMS in DETERRENCE
Problems arise in deterrence when 1) decision makers may not fully understand their own (often unconscious) motives and intentions; 2) if they do, they may not articulate them; 3) over the duration of a crisis there may be a change in their motives and intentions – their ‘resolve’- that is not being articulated; 4) they may be articulate conflicting expressions of intentions of resolve; and 5) they may deliberately disguise their true motives and intentions.
The state’s attempts at deterrence can fail because it misunderstands the other’s values. Deterrence can fail because the state misunderstands the way the other sees the world, with the result that the other will not interpret the state’s behavior as it is intended, and will not react as the state desires. Deterrence can go wrong because of incorrect beliefs about the other’s strength and options. Failure of imagination on the part of the would-be deterrers. A fourth problem is the difficulty in determining the other’s basic intentions. Whether the other is an aggressor of defender of the status quo is treated by theory as a given and assumed to be obvious to the state. But it is not obvious.
Whether prescriptive, descriptive, or both, it is often unclear whether the claim is that the policy is an appropriate way to reach the person’s goals or the best way to do so. A related ambiguity is the level at which deterrence theory applies: does it deal with national behaviour, international outcomes, or both?
The attacker’s decisions are often contingent and uncertain. If no war or no crisis erupts, does it mean deterrence works? But perhaps attacker did not attack for reasons unrelated to defender’s performance. Deterrence failures cannot be completely understood by studying only instances in which they occur. Conversely, considering a possible challenge, the Initiator may have decided not to attack for other reasons altogether (e.g. domestic or alliance constrains, internal policy disagreements, the expectation of eventually securing a favorable resolution to its grievance by diplomacy), and not because of the presumed credibility and potency of the deterrence threat
. Outcomes such as limited use of force by the attacker, limited war, skirmishes – are they deterrence success or failures?
Whom to deter? To deter a state, and to deter the leader of that state may sometimes be considerably different. Leadership of the opponent may have an entirely different set of calculations than the real national interests of his country warrants. Saddam may not care so much about what happens to his countrymen provided he remains in power. Khatami’s calculations may be considerably different from Khamanei’s, and we may not even know much about their respective shares of inputs in the final decision.
You may think you have ability and the will to use force to deter an aggressor but the aggressor may calculate that you will not be able to use it because of some external factor, (great power intervention, international public opinion, signal of change in a third party’s behavior- troop movement etc). He might have calculated that your ability less than you think you have, he may have discovered a loophole in your strategy which you are not aware of.
Deterrence theory does not – and perhaps cannot- say much about political factors, international climate, domestic politics, individual preferences of leaders, decision makers, reactions of third parties. There is generally more than one deterrent at work – client states, patron states, neighbors, international institutions, public opinion etc. This aspects of deterrence is generally neglected in the theory. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this third party factors are more difficult to estimate and to count upon. They add an additional uncertainty and instability to the equation.
There is a tension between the desire to increase risks in order to make the other side retreat and the desire to lower them in order to make the situation safer, between the incentive to let things get a bit out of hand and the need to maintain control, between the desire to foreclose one’s own options and so leave to the other the ‘last chance’ to avoid war and the desire to preserve flexibility .Conclusion – Deterrence: ‘restraining, provocative or irrelevant’
Deterrence theory may not accurately describe much of what it purports to theorize about. Could an elegant and intellectually stimulating theory be the basis for an entire security studies discipline even though it didn't address many of the big questions and give flawed answers when it did? But it is still a young theory and as it continue to develop it will become more sophisticated and thus would better approximate real-world politics. Deterrence theory is a work in progress. Universal theories require simplifying assumptions that may distort reality. Also even if the relation of deterrence theory to the real world is imperfect, it's better than the alternatives. To misquote what Churchill said about democracy, deterrence theory is the worst, if we don’t count others. In fact, there is no other body of theory of international conflict.
Deterrence theory cannot predict everything, and relying solely on it as a basis of policy may result in disastrous consequences. But, of course, it does not mean it is altogether useless. Like all theories it has strengths and weaknesses. Some parts of international conflict it explains and predicts better than others. Deterrence is not a watertight theory. Deterrence threats may protect the state and, by contrast, they may set off a spiral of counter-threats that leave both sides worse of than they would have been had the state adopted an alternative policy.
Much depends on the context. Deterrence theory is context-bound. So perhaps it is not a predictive theory as its adherents seems sometimes to believe, but a descriptive one. But there is perhaps a dangerous paradox of deterrence theory that because it explains and predicts so much there is a tendency to see it as the sole arbiter of conflict situations. However, there are still many gaps, ambiguities, inconsistencies in the theory. Deterrence may -and in fact does- fail in so many ways that it cannot be a guarantee. But perhaps it should not be the only instrument of policy. It is one of the tools in the tool-box. But overestimating its impact and reliability, overusing it may have negative consequences. For it to be effective statesmen must have more than a casual knowledge of its dynamics. Successful deterrence requires a good deal of quality intelligence about the values, interests, decision-making processes, capabilities and weaknesses of the opponent. It is not a one-for-all solution for foreign policy problems, even for the military problems of a status quo state. A universal deterrence strategy does not exist. All deterrence situations are different, some more so. Deterrence theory can provide some useful insights but can not predict or/and explain everything. Sometimes deterrence strategies should be more ‘custom-made’. It should take into consideration and study the characteristics of the opponent (his long-term goals, his propensity to take risks (risk-proneness - risk-averness), his motivations decision-making procedures, leaders domestic standing etc). Effective deterrence strategies requires knowledge, sophistication and subtle implementation, perhaps beyond many decision-makers and organizations.
Although there seems to be more holes in deterrence theory than in Kaşar cheese, the rumors of its death is vastly exaggerated. It is well and functioning in so many basic and important ways that to sacrifice it altogether would not make sense. However, it is open to improvement and refinement. Which elements of theory are essential, which contradict each other and which are in need of modification? Admittedly, complex interdependent relations and lower level of conflict in the post-cold War era create and add formidable problems for the theory. During the periods of low level of conflict deterrence strategies should be combined with reassurance strategies. Deterrence strategies cannot solely rely on deterrence theory but still there are important insights to be gained from the theory. Deterrence theory provides many useful insights about the situations of conflict, but of course, it does not – and perhaps, should not be expected to- account for every conflict situation. Deterrence is not a panacea for all security problems. Indeed it can increase some of them. But overall deterrence is beneficial and useful for security considerations. It creates much less unnecessary conflict and violence than it hinders possible conflict.
How to integrate domestic politics, decision-making theories, psychological models, complex interdependence into deterrence theory? When, and if, the deterrence theory incorporates domestic politics, psychological factors, bureaucratic politics, complex interdependence, economic relations and sanctions, non-military relationships, ‘soft power’ relationships, international institutions and law etc., will it still be a theory of deterrence? Admittedly the incorporation of all these factors into a general theory of deterrence will introduce further complexity and additional methodological problems, but it may contribute significantly to our theoretical understanding of the deterrence failures and causes of war. Whether these increases in descriptive, explanatory and predictive power are enough to justify the sacrifice of theoretical elegance and mathematical or methodological rigor can be determined only by further empirical analysis based on a theoretically sophisticated research design. The choice between the deductive approach and one that builds on case studies involves a trade-off between rigor and richness. A deductive theory must miss many facets of any individual case; the study of all the complexities of any specific example will fall short on generalization and perhaps on the confidence with which casual relationships can be established.
Recent developments such as missile defense, Revolution military affairs (RMA), international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction may considerably influence deterrence strategies, and probably the theory itself. For finding answer to questions such as how to deter theorists and nuclear neighbors, policy-makers may return to deterrence theory, albeit a revised one.
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Lebow, Richard Ned and Janice Stein, "Rational Deterrence Theory: I Think, Therefore I Deter." World Politics 41 (January 1989): 208-24.
Lebow, Richard Ned, "Deterrence Failure Revisited", in International Security, v 12 n 1, Summer 1987, pp. 197-213.
Lebow, Richard Ned and Janice Gross Stein, "Deterrence: The Elusive Dependent Variable." World Politics 42 (April 1990): 336-69.
Nalebuff, Barry, "Rational Deterrence in an Imperfect World." World Politics 43 (April 1991): 313-35.
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Schelling, Thomas. Arms and Influence. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966.
Schelling, Thomas. The Strateqy of Conflict. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
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Steinbrunner, John, "Beyond Rational Deterrence," World Politics 28 (July 1976): 223-245.
Tetlock , Philip and et al. eds. Behavior society and nuclear war, 1989Notes
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 289.
Craig and George, p.180.
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 292.
Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, p. 190.
Huth, ‘Extended deterrence’, 426.
Game of chicken analogy – in situations in which the first choice of both sides is to stand firm, but in which both prefer retreating and letting the other side win to a mutually disastrous confrontation. Each side therefore tries to prevail by making the other think it is going to stand firm.
Schelling, Arms and Influence, and Strategy of Conflict.
Huth, ‘Extended Deterrence’
Betts, ‘Conventional deterrence’, p. 177
Jervis, ‘Deterrence and Perception’, p.13.
Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, 187.
Downs, ‘The Rational Deterrence Debate’, p. 227.
Snyder, ‘Rationality at the Brink’,p. 351.
Craig and George, Force and Statecraft, p. 186-7.
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 290.
Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, p. 189.
Levy, ‘Misperception and the Causes of War’, pp. 78-79.
Levy, ‘Misperception and the Causes of War’, p. 80.
Jervis , ‘Deterrence and perception’, p.20.
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 300.
“In the absence of compelling domestic and strategic needs most leaders may be reluctant or unwilling to pursue confrontational policies even when they seem to hold out an excellent prospect of success.” Lebow, p. 275.
On the other hand deterrence can also make a positive contribution toward regulating these less extreme kinds of adversarial relationships. It encourages policy-makers to define and articulate their commitments and thus to decide which interests are sufficiently vital to risk war to defend. Deterrence compels leaders to think about their national interests in the broadest sense, something that might not otherwise occur. Efforts to define and impart credibility to commitments can also reduce the probability of miscalculation by educating an adversary about vital interests and the kind of threats to them that a state is not prepared to tolerate. Salient commitments may also reduce the probability of a challenge through misunderstanding.
Lebow and Stein, ‘I think therefore I deter’, 215.
US extended deterrence worked in 1964 Johnson letter but not in 1974. Among many other things, leadership changed. Ecevit was more ready and willing to challenge the US than İnönü. Turkey calculated that it can not retreat from intervention after the 1964 ‘humiliation’. The international climate and legal grounds for intervention were ‘riper’ in 1974 than in 1964, and Turkish military capabilities were more developed, the place of Cyprus in Turkish politics expanded, public opinion became more ready and supportive.
George and Smoke, p.182.
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 304.
Jervis, ‘Deterrence Theory Revisited’, p. 295.
Lebow and Stein, ‘I think therefore I deter’, 221.
Lebow , Between Peace and War, p. 181.
For an analysis of the conditions under which the strategy of deterrence is likely to provoke rather than prevent a use of force, see Robert Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, pp. 183-207.
Betts, ‘Conventional deterrence’ 177
Huth, ‘Testing deterrence’, p. 470.
Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, 187.
George and Smoke, p. 178. Among deterrence theorists there are lingering divisions over coding of deterrence successes and failures, and disputes over methods and case listings. In a sense, each side has produced evidence to support their interpretation of events. Perhaps what is needed is developing alternative testing strategies that lie outside the success/failure framework. What about ‘crises’ that never happened because of successful deterrence, or because both sides were satisfied with the status quo? What about situations in which neither a crises nor war occurred because one side chose to capitulate to the desires of the other? Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, p. 194; Downs, ‘The Rational Deterrence Debate’, p. 228.
Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 189.
Jervis, ‘Rational Deterrence’, p. 184