Cover: Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century

Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century

Lessons from the Cold War for a New Era of Strategic Piracy

Published Mar 27, 2012

by Thérèse Delpech


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Deterrence remains a primary doctrine for dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons in the 21st century. In this book, Thérèse Delpech calls for a renewed intellectual effort to address the relevance of the traditional concepts of first strike, escalation, extended deterrence, and other Cold War–era strategies in today's complex world of additional superpowers (e.g., China), smaller nuclear powers (e.g., Pakistan and North Korea), and nonstate actors (e.g., terrorists), as well as the extension of defense and security analysis to new domains, such as outer space and cyberspace. The author draws upon the lessons of the bipolar Cold War era to illustrate new concepts of deterrence that properly account for the variety of nuclear actors, the proliferation of missiles and thermonuclear weapons, and the radical ideologies that all are part of the nuclear scene today.

"This is a powerful and persuasive work. Thérèse Delpech clearly and strongly focuses the reader on the continuing relevance of nuclear weapons in the 21st century, but, in so doing, cautions against the assumption that 20th-century deterrent concepts necessarily apply today. Her analysis is comprehensive, covering the major nuclear weapons states, the smaller ones, and those states that are seeking a nuclear capability."

- Franklin C. Miller, Principal at The Scowcroft Group; former Special Assistant to the President for National Security and Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council

"Thérèse Delpech was one of France's most exacting and highly respected strategic thinkers. In this well-informed and richly documented study, she critically examines prominent U.S. works on deterrence since the mid-1940s, and she offers lucid and incisive judgments as to what continues to be relevant today. She points out that much requires rethinking in light of the proliferation of nuclear and other technologies, including cyber and space capabilities. She provides a valuable fresh perspective on questions of increasingly critical importance, such as strategic stability, extended deterrence, and escalation control, that were never satisfactorily answered during the Cold War and that stand out as fundamental challenges for the United States and its allies in the decades ahead."

- David S. Yost, Professor, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, former Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and former Senior Research Fellow at the NATO Defense College in Rome

"The emergence of new nuclear weapons states is one of the most important national security challenges for the United States in the coming years. Unfortunately the serious study of nuclear strategy and deterrence has atrophied since the end of the Cold War. How fortunate, as a result, that the late Thérèse Delpech, one of the most thorough and tough-minded thinkers on the subject, has bequeathed us this wonderful monograph. Thérèse's laser-like logic is applied to the founding fathers of nuclear strategy, the concepts they developed and their relevance to today's world where many of the rules of the international game are changing and global politics (as she has written elsewhere) have become more 'savage.' Delpech, whose untimely passing was a great loss to the transatlantic strategic studies community, has left this book as her legacy and a powerful one it is."

- Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, Hertog Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2005–2009); and former U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Finland and Turkey

"This posthumous publication is a fitting exclamation point to a career defined by intellectual courage, policy vision, and deep conviction about the requirements of a democratic peace in the nuclear era. In particularly compelling terms, Thérèse Delpech conveys a sense of urgency about nuclear deterrence and nuclear order in the 21st century not felt by most Americans. That urgency follows from her assessment that a second nuclear era is now upon us, one characterized by mounting violence worldwide, a growing disrespect for accepted rules of behavior and for international law, and the rising salience of nuclear weapons in many parts of the world. In contrast, she notes "nuclear deterrence has receded in American minds as well as in European capitals." She prescribes a dose of realism and offers it in the form of a careful sifting of the theories and practices of the first nuclear age for their relevance to the second. The result is a powerful picture of the mismatch between emergent challenges and the universe of ideas that inform policy. This work invites a new discussion about how best to secure nuclear order in a changed and changing world."

- Dr. Brad Roberts

"I highly recommend Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century for anyone interested in the study of international relations, strategic studies, or nuclear deterrence. Extremely relevant considering today's complicated security concerns, it is well-written, thought-stimulating, and makes a strong argument for the need for strong nuclear deterrence in the future."

- Military Review Journal, Lt. Col. David T. Seigel, USA, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, KS

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