AUTHORPayne, Keith B.
TITLEThe Great American Gamble: Deterrence Theory and Practice from the Cold War to the Twenty-First Century
PUBLISHERNational Institute Press

This book examines the development of deterrence theory within U.S. defense policy, illuminating how that theory has driven strategy and action, and it evaluates the efficacy of deterrence policy for the U.S. in 2008 and beyond. Deterrence theory supports the strategy of having the capability to inflict extreme damage on an aggressor and ensuring that the potential aggressor knows of the risk and will therefore willingly abstain from inflicting damage first. The author has over thirty years of experience in strategic nuclear and defense policy, and organizes the book into nine chapters. Early chapters present the origins of the theory during the Cold War; middle chapters explain the development of the “balance of terror” and discuss how deterrence theory assumes that opponents are “rational;” and final chapters speculate as to how the new era of “irrational” opponents challenges deterrence theory in the 21st century. The author concludes by comparing nuclear and non-nuclear defense strategies, considering the role of each in U.S. defense policy, ultimately questioning the deterrent value of nuclear weapons in a global environment far different from that of the Cold War. Extensive notes follow the chapters and the book is indexed.

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