Escalation Space and Assumptions about Enemy Motivations

Elements in Warning Assessments

by William M. Jones


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Strategic warning may be viewed as contingently predicting an imminent, significant escalation of a confrontation. Warning of an imminent Soviet strategic nuclear attack is one of a large set of possible escalations, although of unique consequence. Confrontations and conflicts may be characterized as a series of escalations and de-escalations by one or both sides, involving some six factors that cover the participants, the locale, the degree of superpower involvements, the superpower declaratory policies, the types of weapons in use, and the targets of the military violence. By locating these variables on each of these ladders at every juncture in a confrontation, the warning analyst can identify the various steps open to the enemy. To assist him in deciding which possibilities warrant his close attention, he must make some basic assumptions about enemy decisionmaking determinants. The making of such assumptions is inevitable; they should be explicit.

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