Policy and Purpose: The Economy of Deterrence
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE WASHINGTON DC
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The 2008 Air Force Association convention chief of staff keynote speech addressed the subject of deterrence, asserting that it is not a fading construct in national security. On the contrary, deterrence is reemerging and growing in importance as an aspect of U.S. defense policy. The keynote speech invited the audience to think about deterrence in a broader sense and how the U.S. Air Force can contribute in a fashion relevant to 21st-century national defense. The purpose of this article is to add to the growing body of literature that seeks a broader understanding of deterrence and how it fits with other forms of policy such as dissuasion, assurance, and insurance. Identifying and understanding the distinctions among these concepts and how they relate to U.S. policy are fundamental to explaining the relevance of deterrence to our collective security. This task is certainly ambitious, but the need demands consideration. Deterrence policy has shown itself an exquisitely beneficial tool in obtaining national security objectives. On the other hand, deterrence -- either misunderstood or misapplied -- can form the basis for incomplete or ill-advised U.S. policy, especially in terms of how and when to use military power to achieve high-stakes national security objectives. A variety of recent and historical examples attests to a vital requirement for understanding how disconnects between military capabilities, national policy, and the value of national purpose can cause unfavorable if not disastrous consequences.
- Government and Political Science
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics