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Deterrence theory is a military strategy developed during the Cold War.

It is es pecially relevant with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and figures promine ntly in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclea r technology in North Korea and Iran.[1] Less formally, the term refers to any party who, in an attempt to discourage con flict, broadcasts to potential aggressors a willingness to respond to any attack s with a counter-attack of equal or greater magnitude. Philosophically, such a s trategy would be the opposite of appeasement. Strategy Deterrence is a strategy by which governments threaten an immense retaliation if attacked, such that aggressors are deterred if they do not wish to suffer great damage as a result of an aggressive action. Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), conventional weapons strength, economic sanctions, or any combination of these can be used as deterrents. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is a form of this strategy, which came to prominence during the Cold War when it was used by the U S to characterize relations between the United States and Soviet Union. Both nat ions were prepared to fight a full scale nuclear and conventional war, but were not willing to risk the carnage of a full scale nuclear war.[2] Deterrence by denial is a strategy whereby a government builds up or maintains d efense and intelligence systems with the purported aim of neutralizing or mitiga ting attacks. Aggressors are deterred if they choose not to act, perceiving the cost of their action to be too high in relation to its likelihood of success. History United States policy of deterrence during the Cold War underwent significant var iations. The early stages of the Cold War were generally characterized by ideolo gy of containment, an aggressive stance on behalf of the United States especiall y regarding developing nations under their sphere of influence. This period was characterized by numerous proxy wars throughout most of the globe, particularly Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America. A notable such conflict was th e Korean War. In contrast to general opinion, George F. Kennan, who is taken to be the founder of this ideology in the famous Long Telegram, asserted that his i deas had been misinterpreted and that he never advocated military intervention, merely economic support. With the US pullout in Vietnam, the normalization of US relations with China, an d the Sino-Soviet Split, the policy of Containment was abandoned and a new polic y of dtente was established, whereby peaceful coexistence was sought between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although all factors listed above contribute d to this shift, the most important factor was probably the rough parity achieve d in stockpiling nuclear weapons with the clear capability of Mutual Assured Des truction (MAD). Therefore, the period of dtente was characterized by a general re duction in the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and a thaw ing of the Cold War, lasting from the late 1960s until the start of the 1980s. T he doctrine of mutual nuclear deterrence characterized relations between the Uni ted States and the Soviet Union during this period, and present relations with R ussia. A third shift occurred with President Ronald Reagan's arms build-up during the 1 980s. Reagan attempted to justify this policy in part due to concerns of growing Soviet influence in Latin America and the new republic of Iran, established aft er the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Similar to the old policy of containment, the United States funded several proxy wars, including support for Saddam Hussein o f Iraq during the Iran Iraq War, support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, who we re fighting for independence from the Soviet Union, and several anti-communist m ovements in Latin America such as the overthrow of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The funding of the Contras in Nicaragua led to the Iran-Contra Affair

, while overt support led to a ruling from the International Court of Justice ag ainst the United States in Nicaragua v. United States. While the army was dealing with the break up of the Soviet Union and the spread of nuclear technology to other nations beyond the United States and Russia, the concept of deterrence took on a broader multinational dimension. The US policy o n post-Cold War deterrence was outlined in 1995 in a document called "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence".[3] This document explains that while relations wi th Russia continue to follow the traditional characteristics of Mutual Nuclear D eterrence, due to both nations continuing MAD, US policy of deterrence towards n ations with minor nuclear capabilities should ensure through threats of immense retaliation (or even preemptive action) that they do not threaten the United Sta tes, its interests, or allies. The document explains that such threats must also be used to ensure that nations without nuclear technology refrain from developi ng nuclear weapons and that a universal ban precludes any nation from maintainin g chemical or biological weapons. The current tensions with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs are due in part to the continuation of this policy of deterrence. Criticism Deterrence theory is criticized for its assumptions about opponent rationales: f irst, it is argued that suicidal or psychotic opponents may not be deterred by e ither forms of deterrence. Second, if Country "X" were to launch nuclear weapons at Country "Y", managing to destroy many nuclear launch silos in a preemptive s trike, Country "Y" would be rendered defenseless, thus finding a loophole in the theory. Third, diplomatic misunderstandings and/or opposing political ideologie s may lead to escalating mutual perceptions of threat, and a subsequent arms rac e which elevates the risk of actual war (this scenario is illustrated in the mov ies WarGames and Dr. Strangelove). An arms race is inefficient in its optimal ou tput; all countries involved expend resources on armaments which would not have been expended if the others had not expended resources. This is a form of positi ve feedback. Finally, a military build-up could increase a country's risks of budget deficits , restrictions on civil liberties, the creation of a military-industrial complex , and other such potentially-undesirable measures. See Garrison State. Psychology and deterrence A new form of criticism emerged in the late 1980s with detailed analyses of the actions of individual leaders and groups of leaders in crisis situations (histor ical and theoretical). A number of new or nuanced criticisms of "traditional" deterrence theory emerged . One was that deterrence theory assumed that both sides had common rational pea ceful goals. In some real-life situations, such as the Yom Kippur War, leaders f elt that internal or external political considerations forced a conflict. One of the essays in,[4] regarding the internal military and political discussions wit hin the Egyptian high command in 1973, indicates that senior civilian leaders (i ncluding Anwar Sadat) believed that they had to fight a war in order to have eno ugh internal political support to negotiate for peace. In another miscalculation, Israel rationalized that the Israeli military dominan ce would deter any attack, and believed that no rational Syrian or Egyptian lead er would attempt such an attack. Sadat felt unable to avoid a war, and Syria's l eadership misjudged the military situation and believed they could be victorious . Israel assumed rational and well-informed opponents with clear objectives, and its deterrence failed.

Another observation is that crisis situations can reach a point that formerly st abilizing actions (such as keeping military units at bases, and low alert levels ) can be seen as a sign of weakness, and that perceived weakness can then induce an opponent to attack during the perceived time of advantage. Thus, an inversio n point exists, after which some formerly stabilizing actions become destabilizi ng, and some formerly destabilizing actions become stabilizing. Finally, studies of the specific group psychology of several leaders and leader groups, including the Israeli and Arab leaders in 1973 and the Kennedy Administr ation during the Bay of Pigs Invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis, indicated that i n many cases executive groups use poor decision-making techniques and improperly assess available information. These errors can preclude truly rational end-beha vior in deterrence situations.