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Thinking About Nuclear WeaponsPrinciples, Problems, Prospects$
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Michael Quinlan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563944.001.0001

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(p.20) 3 Deterrence
Thinking About Nuclear Weapons

Michael Quinlan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the meaning and functioning of deterrence, and its salience in the nuclear age. It recalls that deterrence nevertheless extends beyond nuclear weapons, and that an effective deterrence structure must have more than just a capacity for vast destruction—that it needs, for example, some range of options, and evident clarity about what will be regarded as intolerable. Several misunderstandings are reviewed about how the logic of deterrence works, such as that it requires exceptional rationality among the parties, or an implacable determination to use weapons, or a prospective equality of suffering as between the parties. Finally, this chapter discusses whether this can still work in the post‐Cold-War world, and suggests that deterrence may in future need to be more broadly and flexibly constructed than it was during the Cold War.

Keywords:   clarity, deterrence, logic of deterrence, options, post–Cold War

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