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Page 123 APPENDIX F Notes on the "Band" Between "Existential Deterrence" and the Actual Use of Force Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Brookings Institution 1. Deterrenceused here roughly as defined in Sy Deitchman's memorandum of February 22, 1995, to the Naval Studies Board deterrence study participantshas been practiced in various forms by states and other social organizations for much of recorded history. In biblical times, God was thought to have an infinite capacity for punishment (and reward). The record suggests that potential sinners frequently were "deterred" from doing what temptation, greed, and other motivations and impulses of mortal man might have led them to do without fear of the consequences. But, starting with Adam and Eve, there is a long and melancholy record of deterrence failing. God was also known to employ "compellence," both on the children of Israel and on their tormentors, notably when he visited the 10 plagues on the Egyptians to force them to release the Israelites from bondage. (Some of those plagues would nowadays fall into the category of biological warfare.) The Bible also records instances when entire populations were wiped out or forced into exile in the course of wars. The Babylonians may well have calculated that the example of physically removing the children of Israel from their homeland would be a lesson to other people who might resist their imperial ambitions. Indeed, the notion of making an example of sinners or resisters by inflicting severe punishment upon them has been a means of maintaining "law and order" within social groups since time immemorial and remains so today. Over time, states or their predecessors have sought ways to provide some middle ground between the threat, or example, of severe punishment and its actual employment, including gradations of punitive action, e.g., beginning with a modest fine, as well as various forms of rewards for good, and especially for compliant, behavior. The power of a state to inflict capital punishment, albeit nowadays often constrained by complex procedural safeguards, may be seen as an effort to establish an "existential deterrence" to heinous crimes. 2. Modem states have tried to approach the problems of crime by searching for the root causes of antisocial or criminal behavior and counteracting them by various kinds of reforms, medical treatment, schooling, and so on. But except for a few intensely idealistic communities, society has ultimately relied on the threat and example of punishment to ensure domestic tranquility. 3. Interstate relations have always suffered from the absence of a supreme secular authority operating by some agreed body of universally applicable law upheld either by the consent of states or by the threat of punitive action which
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Page 124 confronts potential predators with the prospect of pain sufficient to restrain them from breaking the peace. Even with a vast body of international conventions and a U.N. Security Council endowed with powers greater than any wielded by any previous international institution, states ultimately rely on their own ability to protect their interests and to dissuade those who would attempt to damage those interests from doing so by the threat of punishment greater than any gain that might be achieved. As noted, this principle has been far from infallible and not necessarily because those who lead states are "evil" but because state interests may clash and governments seek by one means or another to enhance theirs, if necessary at the expense of those of another state. 4. In the prenuclear age, rulers of states (and their predecessor entities) were frequently deterred from seeking to achieve gains at the expense of other states by fear of the cost. Instead, they sought their goals by negotiation, dynastic marriages, and other ways short of recourse to arms. But frequently they did have recourse to arms, especially if the other state or states were thought to be weaker. Often this involved miscalculations and the enterprise was suspended; or perhaps a deal was made. The costs incurred were frequently temporary: destruction could be repaired; populations could be replenished; debts could be paid, covered by loans, or ignored. Occasionally, of course, damage, whether as a result of gains achieved or of losses suffered or of merely a standoff, could be severe and long lasting (e.g., the Thirty Years' War and World Wars I and II). Sometimes states ceased to exist or lost their independence. Major changes in the international system could result. But over time the effects of even the more cataclysmic conflicts and resulting transformations in the state system would be absorbed and surmounted. 5. In the last 150 years or so, the prompt damage and injury inflicted by weapons of war greatly increased; cumulative damage and injury extended well beyond the military forces of warring parties; weapons could be delivered against military and civilian targets over ever-increasing distances and with ever-greater rapidity. Combined with ever-more effective means of conflict, like blockades and displacements and destruction of civilian populations, prenuclear conflicts in the 20th century came to resemble the most destructive conflicts in the Middle Ages and antiquity. Many people came to conclude in the early 20th century, especially after World War I, that modern war was not worth any conceivable gain. As it turned out, the deterrent effect of war itself was far from universal. Indeed, the destructiveness of modern prenuclear war was exploited by the most ruthless political movements and leaders between the world wars to advance their ambitions. The famous Leni Riefenstahl movie "Triumph of the Will" was designed both to imbue the German public with a sense of destiny and to intimidate the rest of Europe into meeting German demands and to persuade it that resistance would be senseless should Germany use force to impose them.
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Page 125 The British sought at the time to acquire some room for maneuver by speeding rearmament, guaranteeing Poland, and, half-heartedly, trying to persuade the Soviet Union to join an anti-Hitler front. Hitler trumped the latter and moved against Poland while Britain and France still had no means of directly aiding Poland other than declaring general war ill prepared. He and some of his advisors thought the West would remain deterred. They miscalculated. After Poland's conquest, Hitler engaged in what 20 years later would have been called "intrawar deterrence"; i.e., he sought to persuade the British and French that escalation of the war to redeem a commitment to a Poland that by then had disappeared risked the massive destruction of modern war. He miscalculated again. The only "intrawar deterrence" that worked during World War II (and again in the Gulf War) was that both sides abstained from using their chemical arsenals against each other. (The Germans, of course, used theirs in the extermination camps, and the Iraqis used theirs domestically and against Iran.) 6. The advent of the nuclear age, with the demonstrated immediate and anticipated future effects of atomic weapons, led to a far more systematic development of the theory and practice of deterrence than had existed before. As it happened, the advent of the nuclear age coincided with that of the Cold War, a largely bipolar confrontation that was to last almost half a century. 7. The overriding concern of American policy during the Cold War was to avoid all-out war while at the same time preventing Soviet political and territorial gains, particularly in Europe. In the early years of the Cold War, with Soviet conventional forces in Central and Eastern Europe thought to be greatly superior to Western forces in Germany and Western Europe, the United States relied on its atomic superiority well into the 1950s to deter Soviet encroachments. This threat of massive retaliation "at places and times of our choosing" was buttressed by a series of alliances. In the case of NATO, the alliance was transformed into an integrated multinational military force which over time became increasingly formidable. In Germany it was deployed along the east-west dividing line as well as in depth (until France in 1967 precluded stationed forces on its soil). These dispositions were intended both to deter the Soviets and to reassure the allies, allowing them, with U.S. aid, to reconstruct their societies and economies. "Reassurance" became a crucial adjunct of deterrence, which itself therefore came to include the concept of "extended deterrence." This extension was the logical consequence of the geographic remoteness of the United States from regions it had concluded fell within its area of interests. 8. If there ever was any serious thought in the West of liberating Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, it was dissipated by Moscow's acquisition of a nuclear arsenal of its own. Deterrence thus began to operate in both directions;
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Page 126 in the late 1950s ''massive retaliation" lost credibility (would the United States trade New York for Hamburg, and so on?) and, within the requirements of "extended deterrence," gradually came to be replaced by "flexible response." This was in turn followed by major Soviet forward deployments of shorterrange nuclear weapons. Although there was much controversy about how "stable" these arrangements wereGermans became especially sensitive about nuclear deployments on or near their soilthe system in fact kept Europe free of war until the Soviet collapse. 9. The mutual deterrence system was less stable outside Europe: major wars occurred in Korea (clearly encouraged and supported by the Soviets), Vietnam (with Soviet involvement more ambiguous), and with lesser intensity elsewhere. Moscow, as it were, hurdled the containment barriers. The United States did not fare well in several of these conflicts, but the damage to its interests was far from fatal. Moscow and "international Communism" appeared to be the gainer, but in fact the problems and costs of managing a far-flung and disparate pseudoempire contributed to the eventual demise of the Soviet Union itself. More pertinent perhaps, the policies of the Reagan administration of contesting Soviet footholds around the world more actively and of forcing the pace of the U.S. military buildup while avoiding, by instinct as much as calculus, a breach of mutual deterrence rules eventually led Gorbachev to seek relief by negotiation and attempts to reform the Soviet system. Crucially in the circumstances, the U.S. policy of pressure and cost raising came to be accompanied by an embrace of Gorbachev as the instrument for dismantling the Cold War and, along with it, the Soviet empire. The Soviet side of the mutual deterrence equation had failed to prevent the West from substantially achieving its political aims without war. 10. Deterrence in the post-Cold War world is not a two-sided game. Nor, with exceptions noted below, are there frontlines as clearly defined as those of the Cold War which ran through the center of Europe and around the periphery of the old Soviet Union. It is already clear that the panoply of U.S. military power, although impressive, is not capable by its mere, but shrinking, existence of deterring military conflicts across international frontiers or within them. This may in large part be because the United States is not prepared to employ its forces on a large scale or even credibly to threaten their use in many of the cases that have so far arisen. The demonstration effect of the Gulf War may deter large-scale aggression like that by Iraq against Kuwait, but that effect may fade even in strategically important areas like the Gulf unless there is a visible U.S. military presence in or near the region. In Bosnia the threat of NATOlargely U.S.air power initially had an inhibiting effect on Serb violations of the no-fly and heavy-weapons exclusion zones. But that ended when the highly restrictive tactics of its use and the cumbersome nature of NATO/U.N. command arrangements became apparent to the Serbs. Moreover, NATO governments
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Page 127 with forces on the ground were always reluctant to use air power because of fears of Serb retaliation, such as hostage taking. 11. The United States has not so far been able to clarify, i.e., achieve political consensus, as to where and under what conditions it would be prepared to intervene militarily. The Bottom-up Review identified two potential such casesthe "major regional conflicts" in the Gulf and Korea. That has not prevented North Korea and Iraqand to a lesser extent Iran-from testing U.S. reactions to various military moves. In response, the United States beefed up its presence in the Gulf and reinforced its forces in Korea. As significant, in the case of North Korea, the threat of an emerging nuclear capability and the formidable, if vulnerable, North Korean conventional forces arrayed along the 38th parallel, led the United States to seek a negotiated resolution of the nuclear issue. For the time being, the Korean peninsula may represent the closest instance of two-sided mutual deterrence in the post-Cold War world (the Indian subcontinent may be another such case, though not directly involving the United States). This may allow room for some negotiated compromises on the nuclear and other issues, especially those between the North and the South. But in view of the nature of the North Korean regime and its inherent weakness, the situation is likely to remain fragile. If the Soviet collapse has any precedential significance, mutual deterrence may prevent war but may not preclude the collapse of one of the partieswhich in the case of North Korea may not be as gentle as that of the Soviet Union and all but one of its satellites. 12. As has frequently been pointed out, deterrence chiefly affects the intentions of decision makers, that is, their calculus of whether the risks and potential costs of a course of action are worth the gains that might be achieved. The United States will continue to have formidable military forces of all kinds, even though substantially smaller than during the Cold War. But their deterrent effect on others who might be inclined or impelled toward aggrandizing policies will be less a result of their size and destructive capacity than of judgments concerning the readiness of the United States actually to employ those forces either alone or in coalitions. The resulting uncertainties can lead to at least two dangers: (1) that a country may make a move which the United States then decides is sufficiently detrimental to its interests to require a military riposte, and (2) that the United States, concerned that its credibility is so much in question, decides that it must undertake a demonstrative military move which will then be interpreted as provocative and induce overt military action by another party. There is no easy way out of this kind of dilemma. It is, however, not likely to arise in too many instances until a major power appears on the scene determined to assert hegemony, or territorial control, over adjacent areas which the United States then deems to be of importance to its security. The most likely foreseeable case of this sort is a future China with ambitions to clearly establish control of the
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Page 128 South China Sea. Other nearby states will be even more concerned than the United States in this instance. This may produce a de facto coalition which would either seek to resist Chinese ambitions or to work out a modus vivendi. This particular example is of contemporaneous interest, since China is clearly already asserting claims to the Spratlys and its surrounding wider ocean areas. But it still lacks the military forces to prevent serious challenges from other claimants. The United States has been neutral about the conflicting claims but recently asserted its interest by asserting rights of passage through the contested waters and insisting on peaceful settlement of claims. The United States may have to become more explicit in asserting its position and will need periodically to exercise its asserted maritime rights to avoid later misunderstandings and potential clashes with a by-then much stronger China. 13. For a while, in the Bush administration, it appeared that the United States would look to the United Nations as an effective instrument to enhance deterrence of local aggressions and serious indigenous conflicts by the interposition of international forces in critical situations. Although the Security Council, with U.S. support, has continued to issue decisions along these lines, the United States has meanwhile severely restricted its own participation in such ventures. But without U.S. participation, U.N. effectiveness, as peace maker or enforcer, is limited. As matters stand, the United States will participate only if it (or SACEUR) is in clear command of the operations involved. But this will not be acceptable to key Security Council members except in rare cases which in practice will be coterminous with those in which the United States is prepared to intervene unilaterally, e.g., at present in the Gulf and Korea. At some less inflamed time, the United States might reconsider possible U.N. activities which could lessen the risk or severity of conflicts and which it could support. 14. Elements of nuclear deterrence will continue between Russia and the United States because of the size of their respective nuclear arsenals and the uncertainties of Russia's political evolution. But for now the prospects for direct military engagements between the United States and Russia are remote. The United States is not prepared to challenge Russian assertions of special rights, including military ones, in the "near abroad." The effectiveness of "extended deterrence" of Russian military actions and pressures outside the former Soviet space will remain moot at least for some time to come. Except as noted below, there is thus strictly speaking no "band" between existential deterrence and a shooting war between the two major nuclear powers. But there is a strong American interest in Russia's transformation into a democratic, constitutionally governed state with the role of the military establishment circumscribed. U.S. capacity to influence developments along these directions in Russia is modest, but conceptually the effort to do so is the equivalent of filling the area between deterrence and conflict.
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Page 129 15. The situation with respect to the Baltic states and Ukraine poses more difficult problems. Neither the United States nor the West generally is prepared to provide these countries with iron-clad security guarantees. In a military sense, deterrence thus does not operate, except to the extent that Russian leaders may think there is some possibility of military intervention from the West in the event of Russian incursions or brazen interference in domestic affairs or other efforts of coercion. The "existential deterrence" that may operate is the almost certain political and economic isolation that Russia would suffer. There could also be internal Russian protest and opposition against a leadership that moved against one or more of the countries cited. That leadership would also have to consider the difficulties and direct costs of actually attempting to exercise physical control in these countries. The United States and others can further intensify relations with the Baltic states and Ukraine so that they increasingly tend toward de facto membership in Western institutions. This may create incentives for Russia to pursue constructive and beneficial rather than antagonistic and coercive relationships with these countries. The West should also provide support for resolution of actual disputes between Russia and these countries (e.g., on minority rights and on residual military matters stemming from the Soviet period). Such actions would tend to buttress their security by widening the scope of "political deterrence." 16. With time the United States will face the appearance of new major powers. These would be regional in the first instance but would almost certainly acquire some military and other capabilities that could also threaten U.S. interests up to and including the United States itself. In such circumstances the United States will find itself reverting to a basic deterrent posture, i.e., one that would threaten punishment for damage to U.S. interests up to and including upon the homeland of the perpetrator. Nuclear weapons would almost certainly come into play only in the event that nuclear threats were directed against the United States or one of its allies. Threats involving chemical and biological warfare would probably be countered with threats of retribution by conventional means, although in severe cases threats of nuclear retaliation could not be ruled out. Air defenses against delivery systems capable of reaching the United States should augment the threat of punishment, if necessary by amending the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Passive defenses could play some role as reassurance. (Note: Chemical and biological warfare threats merge with terrorist dangers and involve issues of domestic security policy.) Containment strategies, including the use of existing alliances and newly formed coalitions, would probably be the most effective and affordable instruments to avoid or postpone direct military conflicts. But in some instances this may be easier said than done because even close allies may have different assessments of the seriousness of a threat or of the most effective ways to deal with it. (Note: Japan and much of Europe at present reject economic sanctions against Iran; Japan and South Korea had grave doubts about the use of
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Page 130 sanctions, let alone military actions, against North Korea over the nuclear issue.) 17. Containment strategies for some time to come will be regional in scope rather than global, as was the case with the Soviet Union. In view of the uncertain war-preventing role of "existential deterrence," various forms of "extended deterrence" will be required to give substance to containment strategies. "Forward" stationing of forces, as noted earlier, will be necessary in particularly critical situations such as those in Korea and the Gulf. Some forward stationing, as well as forward operations of forces based in the United States, will be required as forms of presence designed to inhibit the development of potential into actual threats. The relatively large stationed U.S. forces remaining in Europe may be seen as this kind of presence. But these forces, which perform important political functions assuring a significant U.S. role in a future European security "architecture,'' may not be optimally positioned to cope with threats that may arise in other parts of the world. Lift and other support requirements to deploy them to places of more direct relevance to an emerging threat may be as demanding as for forces normally located in the United States. Some "show of force" or "showing the flag" operations may have greater psychological effect if they are mounted from the United States. More generally, forces and equipment forward deployed for specific contingencies cannot be as readily utilized elsewhere as those maintained in the United States or at "crisis-neutral" locations. Naval and air forces usable for long-range bombardment of land targets are inherently more flexible than land forces and can be permanently based in facilities remote from potential areas of conflict in which U.S. interests might become engaged. They should, however, be visibly exercised. Measures to augment "existential deterrence" should include diplomacy and various inducements for parties involved to resolve issues giving rise to friction, crises, and conflict. Agreements can be internationally policed and, if necessary, enforced. If so, based on unfortunate experience in these matters, mandates and rules of engagement for international enforcement should be clearly established and forces adequate to the task provided. Apart from problems of command, it is generally not advisable for American forces to participate directly in such missions unless there is a credibly definable American interest in a particular situation. Although it is desirable for U.S. forces to be trained, physically and psychologically, for military operations that have no "enemy"although there would be "violators" of agreements subject to countermeasuresor a victor in the traditional sense, the United States must avoid dissipating its forces or participating in too many operations with ambiguous outcomes. Both undermine the credibility of deterrence, existential or extended. 18. It should also be noted that not all aspiring regional powers necessarily seek to encroach on U.S. interests. Their aspirations, and associated military
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Page 131 programs, may be principally intended to balance, deter, or threaten rival regional powers. In such situations the United States may elect neutrality, good offices to resolve differences and limit arms races, or tilting toward the party less likely at some point to collide with U.S. interests. As regards the last of these options, the United States will need to take care not to become so deeply tied to one of the parties in a two-party regional rivalry that it loses room for maneuver or encourages that party to assume the United States will support it militarily in a possible war. (The United States may choose to do so but ordinarily should not give so much support in advance that its preferred party starts the war itself. This consideration should also limit the types and quantities of military equipment the United States might supply to the preferred party.) 19. A tentative conclusion: In the post-Cold War world, "existential deterrence," i.e., the sheer weight of American power, will not prevent many conflicts nor even threats or actions against American interests. If a threat is perceived, more directly applicable and visible force will be required to deter and contain it. It will be desirable to undertake such countermeasures in association with other states, but this may often be difficult because of differing threat assessments and judgments as to the most effective means to be used. There will be numerous aspiring powers over time, including some with at least a rudimentary ability to injure the continental United States. In the latter case, a Cold War-type of deterrence, combined with defenses and containment strategies, may be the most desirable option. When aspiring powers are regional rivals of each other, it is in the U.S. interest to help prevent war; in so doing the United States should not tilt so far toward one of the parties as to run the risk of getting dragged in or of encouraging that party to start a war.
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