Dr. Michael Wheeler, senior research staff, Institute for Defense Analyses, led the panel titled “Deterrence Concept Updates and Approaches” at the first workshop session. He began by describing what has and has not changed since the Cold-War (see Box 3-1). Dr. Wheeler was followed by Mr. Orde Kittre, who discussed the sanctions regime against Iran. He believes that few U.S. allies are convinced that the United States will use force against Iran over its nuclear weapons program, and he indicated that Iran's use of a nuclear weapon might be non-deterrable should it succeed in developing one. Even if Iran does not use a nuclear weapon, a nuclear-armed Iran could become emboldened. Further, he stated that several neighboring states could then also want to acquire nuclear weapons. He noted that sanctions worked in Libya, and more recent sanctions on Iran appear to be having an effect; its foreign exchange reserves are key.
Mr. Patrick McKenna, chief, Plans Evaluation and Research Division, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), next discussed deterrence operations and concepts of joint operations, including the official Joint Operating Concept document (which is unclassified and can be downloaded).1 At the document's core are recognition of the changed international environment and the need to continue to deter—for example, to deter North Korea’s use of a nuclear weapon in conflict. Mr. McKenna indicated that deterrence in this case means decisively influencing an adversary's decision making, which covers not only the final decision maker, but others on whom that person or small group relies in making decisions. In general, Mr. McKenna noted, the point is to deter adversary X during condition Y from doing Z, and Z could include not only nuclear-related behavior but activities in space, cyber, and proliferation, among other domains. He stated that adversary decision calculi are based on a profile. All of this is applicable to this workshop because different analytical tools might be needed for his organization's purposes—for example, understanding how an adversary might perceive use of a particular weapon, such as a high- versus low-yield nuclear weapon (e.g., bomber versus missile).
Finally, Dr. Elbridge Colby, a research analyst, provided a brief set of remarks titled “Extended Deterrence.” An abstract of Dr. Colby’s remarks is given in Box 3-2.
Deterrence: What Has and Has Not Changed
Dr. Michael Wheeler, Institute for Defense Analyses
What Has Not Changed
1. The importance of being able to retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with nuclear weapons. Bernard Brodie emphasized this in his classic studies at the start of the nuclear age, as did senior Air Force leaders in the 1946 study (since unclassified) led by Generals Spaatz, Vandenberg, and Norstad.
2. Nuclear weapons are uniquely lethal and can threaten societal existence. The loss of even one city would be devastating; debates took place during the Cold War about how much damage a society could suffer before it would collapse. This was discussed in the 1950 American security review (NSC-68) led by Paul Nitze (who then was head of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department), and in the 1950s British study by the Joint Inter-service Group for the Study of All Out War.
3. Nuclear weapons are different. A nation can lose a conventional war and recover politically, while nuclear weapons imply otherwise. North Korea has been able to threaten turning Seoul into a sea of glass for decades, but look at the intensity of diplomacy now that it has nuclear weapons. Also, look at the massive response that would be expected if a nuclear bomb ever is discovered being smuggled into a country (compared to the responses for other weapons smuggling).
4. The realities of domestic and bureaucratic politics have not changed: interagency bickering, key players being cut out, and the like. There are many examples where regional experts were excluded. For example, the Russian experts George Kennan and Chip Bohlen were kept out of the NSC-68 project (with whose conclusions they disagreed), as was Marshall Shulman (the State Department’s Soviet expert during the Carter administration) during the studies leading up to Presidential Directive 59.
5. The broad outlines of the nuclear infrastructure and posture have not changed; for example, we still have three national laboratories and a triad of strategic forces.
6. Many legacies remain. For example, Russia still has the largest arsenal. Also, alliances such as NATO still rely upon the American extended deterrent.
What Has Evolved
1. Extended deterrence.
2. Proliferation challenges.
3. Arms control (e.g., the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks process, the Non-Proliferation Treaty).
What Has Changed
1. The fiscal environment and industrial base in the United States has contracted, while that in China has expanded.
2. N-party nuclear interactions are more common, as are regional interactions not directly involving the United States (as in South Asia).
3. The ubiquitous nature of the information technology revolution (database available for profiling, transparency and monitoring).
4. “Forces to the President of the United States” (nuclear, but also others: Title 10/Title 50 interactions in cyber; drone strikes; special operations raid into Pakistan to go after Osama Bin Laden).
5. No more nuclear testing/different approach to production/decline of expertise.
6. Rise of China.
1. U.S. Strategic Command now is the only analytic center (once had many).
2. 1960s when techniques adopted in the Department of Defense.
Dr. Elbridge Colby, Research Analyst
Effective extended deterrence derives from a potential adversary’s perception that the state extending deterrence has both the capability and the resolve to use force—possibly and perhaps necessarily including nuclear weapons—in a manner sufficiently detrimental to the potential aggressor’s interests to outweigh any benefits such aggression would entail. The two key factors in effective extended deterrence are capability and resolve. Capability, in turn, can be broken down into the ability to deter through denial or through infliction of cost, with the former being more challenging. Resolve is made harder when an opponent has nuclear weapons of his own, and is especially challenging in extended deterrence because it involves the threat to use nuclear weapons for an ally’s benefit by putting one’s self at risk. This problem was perhaps the central one of the Cold War. While it is less central today, it remains important and may become more so. This is for two reasons: first, the United States continues to extend deterrence to over 30 countries, including a number possibly threatened by nuclear-armed adversaries; second, the U.S. conventional ascendancy of recent years appears to be narrowing; and, third, nuclear weapons appear to be proliferating to more states. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force therefore need to think about what strategic deterrence capabilities are going to be required for these extended deterrence challenges.
Many workshop participants had comments and questions after the panel discussion. A synopsis follows. Mr. Kittre noted that “lawfare” is the idea that laws may be used as a tool to achieve what used to be done by military means, but there are constraints to laws (e.g., serious problems with China where the United States cannot deter cyber activity or proliferation support to other nations). There was an exchange of ideas on (1) extended deterrence (look at the costs and benefits of honoring commitments versus not honoring them) and (2) if there is an increase or decrease in an entity's caution after acquiring nuclear weapons. A workshop
participant argued that there are implications to the U.S. force structure if it goes to very low numbers (e.g., to counter value instead of counter force). But Mr. McKenna indicated that strategy comes first: Would pure, city-busting force look different; and regarding timing, can it be done in 30 minutes or several weeks? However, if counter force, it likely cannot be done at lower numbers unless, perhaps, both sides go down. (A participant commented that one could also go after the other side's conventional forces.) A participant indicated that Iran is concerned that the United States wants regime change (look at what happened in Libya), and the United States tacitly accepts Pakistan and North Korean nuclear weapons, so why not a nuclear Iran eventually? A question was also raised about how one demonstrates a credible threat (e.g., B-52s, very large conventional ordnance). A participant commented that the United States is a tremendously unpredictable country, and, if provoked, it can be very decisive.
Dr. Barry Schneider, retired director, U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center, provided a presentation to the first workshop session titled “Tailored Deterrence.” An abstract of Dr. Schneider’s presentation is found in Box 3-3.
Dr. Jerrold Post, professor of psychiatry, political psychology, and international affairs and director of the Political Psychology Program, George Washington University, provided a presentation to the first workshop session titled “Actor-Specific Behavioral Models of Adversaries: A Key Requirement for Tailored Deterrence.” An abstract of Dr. Post’s presentation is found in Box 3-4.
Dr. Barry Schneider, U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center (retired)
Deterrence must be tailored to (1) specific adversary leaders, (2) in specific scenarios, (3) utilizing a range of verbal and non-verbal communications, and (4) cognizant of the balance of military, economic and political power between the parties. To understand the adversary leadership, it is important to research their personality profiles, decision-making roles, propensity toward risk taking, decision processes, and their views of the U.S. leaders and credibility of U.S. deterrent threats. Where there is one dominant decision maker as there was with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, it is most important to understand that leader’s personality and personal history. Where power is shared among elite, understanding and predicting is harder. However, we must try to understand how adversaries weigh costs and benefits of possible courses of action in a given set of scenarios. Further, we must discern how power is distributed within a given adversary regime, the presence of factions on different types of decisions, and their standard operating procedures, military doctrine and strategies. In addition, it is useful to know the cronies that surround top leaders and what motivates them as well as the regime’s key assets and critical infrastructures and the regime’s key support elements.
Actor-Specific Behavioral Models of Adversaries: A Key Requirement for Tailored Deterrence
Dr. Jerrold Post, George Washington University
One cannot extrapolate uncritically from deterrence doctrine developed during the Cold War to the post-Cold War era. Conflicts now can be precipitated by rogue leaders of outlaw nations, many of whom possess or seek to possess weapons of mass destruction. There is now no “one size fits all” in terms of deterrence, but rather the need for tailored deterrence based on actor-specific behavioral models. The profile of Saddam Hussein, offered in testimony before the House of Representatives, is presented to illustrate how a nuanced political personality profile can inform policy decisions. The profiles of three leaders of current concern are then offered: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran, the Kim Dynasty in North Korea, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria. What deters one leader may provoke another. This emphasizes the importance of an intelligence effort and analytic capabilities to develop such nuanced profiles.
Dr. C. Paul Robinson, president emeritus, Sandia National Laboratories, provided capstone remarks at the first workshop session titled “Future Strategic Deterrence and National Security Challenges for the United States.” An abstract of Dr. Robinson’s remarks are found in Box 3-5. In responding to questions, Dr. Robinson provided other perspectives, such as (1) situation awareness should never be undervalued; (2) deterrence at the strategic level must rely on overwhelming fear; (3) the United States must tailor to deal with North Korea, Iran, etc., and (4) there are not enough dollars to produce the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance everyone wants. Although the U.S. government must accept that there are things it will not know—it will probably know enough to communicate what is held at risk and be able to generate fear.
Gen Larry Welch (USAF, Ret.), trustee emeritus and former president, Institute for Defense Analyses, provided capstone remarks at the second workshop session titled “21st Century Deterrence.” An abstract of Gen Welch’s remarks are found in Box 3-6.
Gen Welch’s responses to questions produced more perspectives, such as: (1) the United States should assume others are acting in what they believe are their own national interests, so it is important to understand their cultures and what their leaders believe about their true national interests; (2) the Department of Defense also needs tools to give U.S. decision makers broad understanding of what is occurring in various places; and (3) when contemplating lower levels of nuclear weapons, confidence in extended deterrence should not be lost.
Future Strategic Deterrence and National Security Challenges for the United States
Dr. C. Paul Robinson, Sandia National Laboratories (emeritus)
During the Cold War, the realization came that strategic deterrence just might be the most successful means of preventing major wars. The long peace that has extended from 1945, when nuclear weapons brought an end to the worst world war in history, continues today. The most important question for us to address is "How can we ensure that deterrence through fears of retaliation with nuclear weapons can continue in perpetuity to prevent war? This talk suggests that deterrence is always an active and dynamic process, and that we must focus on the inputs to the process, if we expect the great outputs it can provide. After reviewing the history of deterrence, as seen by both Cold War protagonists, and the work carried out within the United States, one can conclude that today —with rapid changes in the world— the tasks are more complicated. We seem to be doing less well in anticipating and changing the U.S. deterrent to ensure it will remain effective for a future "multilateral nuclear-armed world." Examples discussed include: tailoring our deterrent plans for particular nations and leaders, examining changes in the target base—e.g., few if any missile fields left, more buried targets, many more mobile missiles (on underground highways?), deeply buried targets; and the characteristics of our delivery systems no longer match the targets (e.g., the low spatial density of targets obsoletes MIRVed systems, the high yields of Cold War systems no longer fit to deter less-than-major nations). The recent Air Force decision for an updated cruise missile was praised as being the likely weapon-of-choice for multilateral deterrence of less-than-major nations. The bottom line called for renewed attention to tailor the U.S. strategic deterrent to today's world.
21st Century Deterrence
Gen Larry Welch (USAF, Ret.), Institute for Defense Analyses (emeritus)
The Cold War strategic nuclear deterrence model requires expansion and adaptation to be relevant to the broader set of 21st century deterrence challenges. Still, the basic principles continue to have wide application. Further, the central Cold War nuclear deterrence task will remain relevant so long as there is the capability to destroy the United States as we know it in the hands of a government that is yet to become a reliable trustworthy friend. The most basic principle of deterrence is the need to instill in the minds of potential adversaries that the potential cost and risk of an action inimical to our interests or those of our allies far exceeds the potential gain. We were confident that we could meet that need in dealing with the leaders of the Soviet Union because we expended enormous effort over a period of decades to understand their motivations and what they valued. For deterrence to be effective on a wider scale in the 21st century, we will need to greatly increase our focus on understanding the motivations and values of a far wider and more complex set of national and trans-national actors. That understanding is essential to fashioning effective deterrent policies, strategies, and capabilities.