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vagaries of the post-Cold War era, the spectrum of what has to
be deterred is much wider, and it is obviously much more complex to
make deterrence work in this "new world disorder."
The problems that increase the complexity of achieving our
national security objectives are not limited to proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and advanced weapons technology but are
rooted in the great gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots," in
the profusion of information increasingly available to the most
distant corners of the world, and in our inability to understand
the value structures of, and communicate clearly with, our
potential adversaries. These factors make it more complicated to
figure out how to make deterrence succeed.
To state it simply, deterrence theory is not substantially
different from what it was in the pastalthough it has been
broadened to include conventional means and must provide an
affordable replacement for the stabilizing mechanisms that the
bipolar power structure of the last four decades imposed on
non-superpowersbut deterrence practice is in transition.
Ashton Carter's emphasis on counterproliferation, and Paul Nitze's
article discussing whether precision-guided munitions (PGM) are an
alternative to nuclear weapons, illustrate some of the current
thinking, as does Charles Allan's excellent Washington
Quarterly 1994 article, "Extended Deterrence."
Other trends brought on by the demise of the bipolar world that
bear on any new approach to the practice of deterrence include:
• Less predictability of the international scene and a
recognition of the need for longer-range policy focus and better
integration of the political, diplomatic, economic, and military
elements of foreign policy;
• Fewer distinctions between tactical and strategic nuclear
• The insufficiency of any single conventional or nuclear
system as a deterrent; and
• Self-deterrence from using nuclear weapons.
Although it continues to be necessary to maintain an appropriate
level of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future, the futility
of mutual nuclear destruction appears to have been recognized by at
least the major powers. For them, this has made possession of
weapons of mass destruction more important than using them, and
with the increasing precision and lethality of conventional
weapons, some of the burden of deterrence will likely shift to
conventional weapons. However, the strategic leverage and "status"
associated with possessing nuclear weapons continues to attract
nuclear aspirants who, through their nuclear weapons programs, seek
a strategic advantage not provided to them by their geography,
resources, politics, or conventional military power.