Page 202

deriving from a world in uncertain transition, is apt to prevail though at least the first decade of the 21st century. Over the past 5 years it has placed an increasing strain on our national security strategy decisions, and operations—within successive administrations and upon the armed forces as well as between the administration, the Congress, and the public. As one looks ahead, it will be even more important to understand clearly the nature of deterrence not only as we perceive it, but also as it is likely to be perceived by those who may be subjected to deterrence. The outlook, values, and interests of decision makers for states or subnational entities apt to be subjected to deterrence will in many instances be quite different from our own. In the increasingly frequent event that we do not wish to resort to all-out war, this will be of great importance to the success or failure of deterrence.


During the Cold War, these threats came mostly from states whose interests and whose concepts of incentives and disincentives resembled our own closely enough for us to understand and develop deterrents likely to be effective. Thus, in the near term or over the long term, the United States and its allies were able to prevail over the Soviet-Cuban threat to the Caribbean and Central America; keep in check the North Korean conventional threat to South Korea; put an end to Iranian attacks on shipping and threats to our friends in the Gulf, and repulse Iraq's attack upon Kuwait; strengthen the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) states to the point that they were no longer vulnerable to Vietnam or China; and keep the Soviet Union from direct military intervention in the Middle East. We were also able to negotiate safely with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) the dangerous missile and nuclear issues, as well as limit conventional forces in Europe.

However, there were several important exceptions where we failed to deter and/or win and where others had similar failures. The nature of these situations is instructive for issues of today's deterrence and the impact of different value systems. Our inability to prevail in Indo-China from 1960 to 1975, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Lebanon in 1983, came in part because we misperceived the cultures and motivations of those whom we were opposing. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 was primarily brought about not by U.S. actions but rather by the special motivation and the willingness of the Afghan Resistance to sacrifice, which the Soviets misperceived much as we did with respect to the Vietnamese. The U.S. decision in October 1993 to withdraw our forces from Somalia, after the failure to neutralize Aideed and his Somali National Alliance (SNA) militia, was comparable to Lebanon in 1983. Similarly, as discussed at our group's first meeting on February 22, 1995, Israel misjudged the culture and motivations of Egypt and Syria in 1973. It has also been unable to devise successful security strategies or tactics to deter Hisbollah in South Lebanon and Hamas in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement