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Critically evaluate the concept of deterrence.

Deterrence is often thought of as an exclusively nuclear concept when in fact a Grand


Strategic viewpoint provides deterrence utilising all levers of power.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines deterrence as
The action of discouraging an action or event through instilling doubt or fear
of the consequences:
Deterrence is realistically a holistic concept that forces your enemy to think
twice about actions that you find reprehensible. Nuclear weapons are
ultimately munitions of last resort due to the inherent risk of Mutually
Assured Destruction (MAD); a suicidal concept requiring a first strike from
another state and retaliating with a disproportionate response ensuring MAD
of both nations.
Realistically, other levers of power must have failed. In the modern world,
diplomatic means are the first lever of power that a nation will use in order to
deter an enemies actions. The paradigm of diplomatic effort is a UN Security
Council Resolution (UNSCR); of which the 5 permanent members (P5) of the
council are nuclear states.
This in itself demonstrates the prestige that nuclear weapons bestow on a
country, arguably the 5 most powerful countries in the world are nuclear
states. France and the UK can punch above their weight as a result.
Producing nuclear weapons is expensive, consequently nuclear nations tend
to be large and (relatively) prosperous; therefore, unlikely to be greatly
affected by sanctions agreed upon as a result of a UNSCR. This assumes that
UNSCRs are not vetoed by any of the P5 Members.
There are several issues with the theory of deterrence, the first is what are
you trying to deter against? It is highly likely that most non-nuclear nations
when faced with the threat of nuclear weapons no matter how small would not continue with a conventional attack. The costs would be too great,
nuclear deterrence will only ensure deterrence from conventional attack, not
a nuclear attack.
A second factor to establish is a nations credibility. North Korea is a case in
point, although it possesses nuclear weapons it has no means of delivery
thus lacking credibility as a nuclear state; Russia is the opposite, a very
credible threat.
Arguably, rationality by state actors is the most important assumption. This
provides assured guarantees amongst all nations that the use of nuclear
weapons truly would be a weapon of last resort. If rationality is not resolute
then deterrence fails; the concept of MAD fails to be a repugnant outcome.
North Korea is again an example; they are consistently irrational.
The weakness of nuclear deterrence is its futility when confronted with an
ideology such that espoused by Daesh. There is no deterrence when

followers have a belief in a divine predetermined outcome that will not be


changed by mere mortals; it is Gods will.
Clausewitz theory of war is an extension of politics by other means, whilst
envisaged pre-nuclear age, holds true today. Nuclear deterrence is the
ultimate insurance strategy for security against state actors but impotent
against non-state actors.
My closing thought is proving the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence. There
has never been a nuclear exchange so it could be argued deterrence works. It
is difficult to prove a negative and as such the debate continues.