In the years since Russia began acquiring nuclear weapons, deterrence has become the central organizing concept of U.S. national-security strategy. And unlike at its inception, deterrence today isn’t applied just to averting nuclear war: it pops up in official pronouncements on everything from China’s territorial ambitions to global terrorism to cybersecurity. But deterrence may be losing its relevance and reliability in the modern world. First, fewer and fewer adversaries seem to fit the “rational actor” model. Second, effective deterrence requires information we often don’t have. Third, elusive adversaries are hard to hold at risk. Fourth, we won’t know whether deterrence is working until it fails. And fifth, credible deterrence probably requires more resolve than Washington is currently exhibiting. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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