92 Foreign Aff. 87 (2013)
The Lost Logic of Deterrence: What the Strategy That Won the Cold War Can - and Can't - Do Now

handle is hein.journals/fora92 and id is 417 raw text is: The Lost Logic of
Deterrence
What the Strategy That Won the Cold War
Can-and Can't-Do Now
Richard K. Betts
Deterrence isn't what it used to be. In the second half of the
twentieth century, it was the backbone of U.S. national
security. Its purpose, logic, and effectiveness were well under-
stood. It was the essential military strategy behind- containing the
Soviet Union and a crucial ingredient in winning the Cold War
without fighting World War III. But in recent decades, deterrence
has gone astray, and U.S. defense policy is worse for the change.
Since the Cold War ended, the United States has clung to deter-
rence where it should not have, needlessly aggravating relations'with
Russia. More important, it has rejected deterrence where it should
have embraced it, leading to one unnecessary and disastrous war with
Iraq and the risk of another with Iran. And most important, with
regard to China, Washington is torn about whether or not to rely on
deterrence at all, even though such confusion could lead to a crisis
and a dangerous miscalculation in Beijing.
Mistakes in applying deterrence have come from misunderstandings
about the concept itself, faulty threat assessments, forgetfulness about
history, and shortsighted policymaking. Bringing these problems
into focus can restore faith in deterrence where it has been lost, lower
costs where the strategy has been misapplied, and reduce the danger
of surprise in situations where the risk of conflict is unclear.
RICHARD K. BETTS is Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
at Columbia University and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations. His most recent book is American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas
in National Security.

March/April 2013   87

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