Conditional Deterrence: Parity, Terrorism and Tenuous Deterrence
48 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2007 Last revised: 31 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 7, 2015
This paper provides an integrated structure that defines conditions for the success and failure of nuclear deterrence. The conditional deterrence model presented is applied to global and regional interactions driven by nuclear proliferation, and is further extended to anticipate challenges that may be generated by the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by terrorists. The key elements of our assessment include relative capabilities, risk propensity associated with the relative assessment of the status quo, and physical exposure to attack or retaliation. After reviewing previous efforts, we generalize insights to all deterrence environments. Our deductive findings indicate that deterrence is stable when the capabilities of a dissatisfied challenger are inferior to that of a dominant and satisfied defender. Deterrence is tenuous when a dissatisfied challenger approaches parity in capability with the dominant and satisfied defender, or when a violent non-state actor obtains nuclear or radiological weapons.
Keywords: Deterrence, Relative Capabilities, Risk Propensity, Exposure
JEL Classification: D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation