Deterrence Theory

Frank C. Zagare

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Deterrence Theory


Deterrence theory refers broadly to a body of academic work that came to dominate the security studies literature in the United States and western Europe shortly after World War II. There is, however, no single theory of deterrence if, by “theory,” one means a collection of logically connected hypotheses. Rather, the literature is characterized by a number of distinct research thrusts that are oftentimes at odds with one another. It should be no surprise to learn, therefore, that the body of literature that delineates the field is at once large, intellectually diverse, conceptually vibrant, and politically relevant. The American strategic analyst Bernard Brodie is generally considered the field’s seminal figure. Brodie was among the first to realize that the postwar international system was radically different than the multipolar European state system that Bismarck had fashioned. For one thing, the postwar system was decidedly bipolar. For another, it was well on its way to becoming nuclear. It was clear to Brodie and a few others that the standard realist theory of war prevention would no longer suffice and that it would need to be revised in light of the new strategic realities that emerged after the war in the Pacific came to a sudden and decisive conclusion. Modern deterrence theory was that revision. It can, therefore, be usefully thought of as a necessary recalibration of classical balance of power theory.

Article.  4874 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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