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when the security of the threatened states is important but is
not a "vital" national interest of the powers that might be the
This premise is provocative, primarily because of the reluctance
of democracies to face up to challenges that do not clearly affect
their truly vital interests. To some, it conjures up images of
entangling alliances, world policeman functions, strategic
overextension, and quagmires. To others like myself, it seems to be
a sober expression of reality. If accepted, it has a considerable
impact on how one thinks about foreign policy and defense
In what follows, I start by illustrating how this deterrent
challenge may arise and why it is so difficult. I then describe how
deterrence issues can be examined with the aid of an analytic
approach that focuses on influencing the decisions of human beings.
This includes actually modeling the decisions of such leaders.2I
next abstract from this discussion a way to summarize deterrence
factors in the form of a "success tree" that can help guide the
development of strategies. Finally, I draw on insights from the
decisionmodeling approach to describe potential deterrent
strategies that might be recommended to weak or medium-strong
states, on the one hand, and strategies that might be recommended
to the United States and its partners of the developed world, on
the other. Many features of the strategies are familiar from other
approaches, but some reflect more uniquely the decision-modeling's
emphasis on the perceptions and reasoning of adversaries.
DETERRENCE AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW
Let us begin by considering the challenge of deterrence in
rather general terms. Who is to be deterred from doing what, what
kinds of deterrence are worth distinguishing, why is deterrence
sometimes difficult, and why are there some reasons for believing
it is feasible to do better in the future than in the past?
The major states of the developed world want to deter
international aggression as part of maintaining regional stability.
Usually, however, the objective is discussed in abstract terms. To
be more concrete, consider the following range of threats that
might arise in the next 20 years as viewed from one American