Thursday, August 28, 2008

Deterrence and the Current Candidates

I might be mistaken, but it dawned on me this morning that I've not heard either of the major candidates for President, nor their surrogates, talk much about deterrence, or what we need to successfully engage in deterrence. This seems like it ought to be a bigger issue than ever, in the wake of the recent Russian adventure in Georgia.

A Google search seems to bear this out. I found an article by a former ambassador on the subject of helping Georgia deter Russia, and I found countless articles bemoaning/encouraging the use of deterrence. There was nothing from new stories or copies of speeches given by the candidates.

A search for "deterrence" on John McCain's website brought up a speech from nearly two years ago, where he merely said that deterrence was no longer good enough. After hunting around on the Obama website (their search function is not as robust as the one on McCain's site), I found a reference in an old speech about how American deterrent power has fallen due to the Iraq war.

And this is it. On the use of one of the most critical components of our diplomacy, the ability to convince people not to do something...there is basically nothing. The most we can tease out is that one holds deterrence in contempt and one seems to think it has some value, with no explanation beyond that.

Since the US deterrent is considered by many to be the guarantor of overall peace, it seems absurd to just sweep it under the rug, especially when so much of what the US is doing can be seen through that lens. The US is putting missiles in Poland. Is this to deter the Russians? (Poland seems to think so, snatching them up after the Georgian war.) Is this enough? Or is itlikely to enrage the Russians instead? Where are the cost-benefit analyses of these foreign policy proposals?

1 comment:

Robert Farley said...

The deterrence debate was a big deal a few years ago, precisely for what McCain argues; neocons not believing that deterrence is still effective against iraq/iran/nkorea. Strange that the Dems aren't invoking it more...