[eDebate] A Sales Pitch for Proliferation

Daniel Overbey dan.debate
Fri Apr 6 10:08:37 CDT 2007

A Sales Pitch for Proliferation

After reading the posts on the CEDA Topic Blog, the topic paper, and talking
to a LOT of people about this (some in "industry", some in think tanks, and
some actually still in debate) I think there is a LOT of fertile ground for
a proliferation topic.

There are two key areas of debate that I think may not have been talked
about, that merit consideration, including:

   1. "Tailored Deterrence" (or dissuasion, clarification below)

Look for work by Elaine Bunn on this subject.  Her most recent work can be
found at http://www.ndu.edu/inss/Strforum/SF225/SF225.pdf, and is an amazing
discussion of HOW deterrence happens, and how deterrence theory needs to
evolve.  The notion of tailored deterrence is that the old style of
deterrence is obsolete and we need new analytical approaches to addressing
how other people make decisions.  In the old days the US relied on what is
now called sub-set deterrence, and that if we deterred aggression by the
USSR we would deter all countries that were aligned with the USSR.  This
theory worked great, up until about 1990, and then it collapsed with the

In the evolving world, it is imperative that to understand that "Deterrence
requires detailed knowledge of the society and leadership that we seek to
influence. U.S. decision-makers will need a continuing set of comprehensive
country or group deterrence assessments, drawing on expertise in and out of
government, in order to tailor deterrence to specific actors and specific
Thus, how we influence other countries requires us to actually learn
something about them, their motivations, ambitions, concerns, history,
ideology, and culture.  This is a RIPE ground for debate because there are
clearly two approaches to prolif (hardline and softline, if you will) that
will not be universally workable.  The solvency debates about how we deter
different types of actors are indeed no longer deep enough.  It isn't a
question of how we deter a "regional power" but of how we deter SPECIFIC
regional powers.  Questions that are up for debate are:

   1. Do we dissuade proliferation by showing that out military is too
   strong for them to compete?
   2. Do we dissuade proliferation by ensuring that asymmetric approaches
   can not work and that we are not vulnerable to them?
   3. Do we dissuade proliferation by attempting to get other nations to
   model a US strategic down-sizing (I will openly laugh at people who
   say this will work though)?
   4. Do we dissuade through NON-military levers of power (Diplomatic,
   Information, and Economic)? The topic could dilineate that the aff
   gets a military policy, and the neg gets the other levers of power, as one

Notice the use of Dissuade vice Deterrence.  In the national security
documents (the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy,
the Quadrennial Defense Review, and others?) the "defense activities are"
identified as:

*Assure:*  Is what we do to make our security guarantees credible to allies

*Dissuade:*  Means dissuade an adversary from improving the capability to
compete, or dissuading a potential adversary from developing the capability
to compete.  By compete, I mean develop some military capability that would
be of value in a confrontation with the US, like a WMD.  We do NOT mean
adding 10,000 more troops to their armed forces.

*Deter: *Means deterring aggression or coercion from an adversary who
actually has the capability to compete with the US strategically.

*Defeat: *Exactly what it sounds like.  The US is EXCELLENT at figuring out
how to defeat, because it does not require an evaluation of how other people
perceive our actions, it is a mechanistic look at what our forces are able
to accomplish in battle.

The first three (ADD) are much more difficult to evaluate because of the
perceptive nature of the activities, which creates an opportunity to explore
tailored deterrence.  There is also considerable literature out there that
can be helpful to this topic.  Some examples include:

Brad Roberts, "Dissuasion and China" *Strategic Insights, *Vol. 3. Issue 10
(October 2004) available at (

*This is one of the VERY BEST works on any arms control related topic right

Daniel A. Pinkston, "North Korea's Foreign Policy Towards the United
States", *Strategic Insights*, Volume V, Issue 7 (September 2006)

Kathleen M. Meilahn, "Cultural Understanding within Context as a Tool for
Countering Irregular Threats and as a Force for Peace" *Strategic Insights*,
Volume VI, Issue 2 (March 2007)

Judith S. Yaphe and Charles D. Lutes, "Reassessing the Implications of a
Nuclear-Armed Iran" *McNair Paper 69 * October 2005 (

These are all country/region specific articles written by some VERY smart
folks.  Each of these articles also contains a full bibliography that can be
of value.  Please forgive the limited scope of my search, but my paying job
doesn't want me to surf all day to build your bibliography for you.  Also,
just going to the Strategic Insights archive would be a good starting point.

   1. Non-Nuclear Proliferation

I am not 100% sure I like the idea of saddling the debate community with a 1
year NPT topic because the most likely direction the US will take regarding
proliferation is with conventional capabilities.  There are a LOT of
talked-about programs that probably contribute to meeting NPT commitments
but only by virtue of changing nuclear weapons to conventional, or by
building new, non-nuclear systems.  This also has the opportunity to be a
systems debate (vice policy), which I think would be fun.  On the downside
of this, there hasn't been enough written about some of the systems
(excepting RRW) to make this debate all that deep.  Some examples of the
systems include:

A.     RRW ? The reliable replacement warhead

B.     CTM ? Conventional Trident Modification (taking the boom off the
front end of the D-5 missile and replacing it with a conventional bomb, and
deploying 2 per SSBN)

C.     Conventional ICBM ? Taking a Minuteman II or III and doing the same
thing as the CTM, making it conventional.

These last two have BIG problems with the allies because of flight paths,
trajectories, and overflight concerns (both azimuthal and actual)

D.     ABL ? Airborne Laser.  This thing is actually in the works as a
missile defense tool.  It has pretty cool, if difficult to realize and
employ, capabilities.

There are others as well, including other missile defense stuff.  There is
clearly room to talk about missile defense sensors (radars) in different
parts of the world.

Beyond the specific offensive systems, there are non-offensive options that
can be considered such as C2 and ISR improvements that would facilitate a
more capable offense.

Given my "the NPT topic would be boring" above, there is certainly room to
discuss how many of these systems interact with NPT commitments (and there
are arguments on both sides as to whether downloading a nuclear weapon, and
putting a conventional warhead in its place is actually good or bad under
the NPT).

I may add more ideas later, but I think the notion of tailored deterrence
(and dissuasion) is a FANTASTIC starting point for a debate topic, and a lot
of the arguments Greta put forth in the topic paper can contribute to a
debate about how we dissuade proliferation.  Please consider it.


Bunn, "Can Deterrence Be Tailored"
*Strategic Forum*, www.ndu.edu/inss
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