This chapter explores how the use of military threats—that is, deterrence—has operated between and among nations. It begins with a brief history of conventional deterrence aimed at preventing wars by threatening either that an initial attack will fail to gain its objective (deterrence by denial) or that an attacker will be sufficiently punished so as to regret the initial action and thus prevent such an attack in the first place (deterrence by punishment). This leads to the self-serving phenomenon of bureaucratic “threat inflation” and then to the most consequential uses and abuses of threats: nuclear deterrence. The chapter then discusses how nuclear deterrence is supposed to work and whether it has in fact worked. It also provides a critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of nuclear deterrence.
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