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Essay: Deterrence

090429-N-4879G-349 ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A Harpoon missile is launched from the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) during the sinking exercise portion of UNITAS Gold. This year marks the 50th iteration of UNITAS, a multinational exercise that provides opportunities for participating nations to increase their collective ability counter illicit maritime activities that threaten regional stability. Participating countries are Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, U.S. and Uruguay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Grieco/Released)

To the people of these United States and in the interest of our republic, let us recap the lessons of foreign policy learned from the past century, and try to apply them to our present circumstance.

The destructive nature of World War II resulted from the realities of post World War I Europe, and demonstrate that peace and prosperity are not guaranteed by victory alone.  In the age of total war, the consequences of geopolitical events allowed to spiral out of control cannot be avoided or contained by solely reactive military strength.  Indeed,  the millions of dead upon the fields of battle, and the millions more slaughtered by unchecked hatred, are testaments to the consequences of inaction.

As the Nazi flag fell and the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe, it was recognized that the world could not endure the devastation of a World War again.  The consequences of such a war meant we could not entertain the resulting horrors of open conflict with the Soviets, but neither could we allow its Communist Regime to spread control and influence unchecked.  The discredited doctrines of appeasement and allowing unchecked aggression did not belong in a world faced with two politically discordant nuclear powers.  To preserve peace and prosperity, it had to be understood that military strength could no longer be held in reserve until outright war was declared.  In order to avoid the consequences of cataclysmic conflict, military strength had to be demonstrated and exercised to avoid war.  Thus, out of necessity, the policy of deterrence was adopted by America and her allies.

Deterrence is the idea that credible threat of force combined with the surgical use of limited and directed military action can deter geopolitical entities from pursuing actions that lead to instability and war.  The principles of deterrence concede that involvement in regional conflict is not always avoidable, but the overall results of nuclear and strategic deterrence validate its effectiveness.  Global war and nuclear holocaust was avoided while representative government recognizing the rights of humanity has thrived.

At the end of the Cold War, nuclear deterrence no longer seemed applicable, and our new policy became nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  This is a commendable goal, but unfortunately justified steps that also led to an eventual abandonment of strategic deterrence as a definitive US policy.  A pattern started shortly after the Berlin Wall fell where avowed enemies of the United States began acting out fearlessly against our interests and our citizens, either unconcerned with the consequences or in the belief that America did not possess the will to respond.  In some circumstances we did respond, but since the response was not connected to a consistent and cohesive strategy of deterrence, the responses often bogged down and proved ineffectual as the righteous anger from the public dwindled and dissipated.

In our modern conundrum, we do not face the threat of nuclear holocaust from a single nation whose political goals call for our downfall.  Instead, we face the threats of violence against our citizens from religious and fundamentalist groups spanning multiple nations and supported by various rogue nations willing to use these groups and their tactics to destabilize their regions.  Nuclear deterrence is not an option, as it would further encourage these rogue parties to develop and apply nuclear technology and risk groups who do not fear the consequences of nuclear holocaust obtaining and utilizing them.  But,  the renewed policy of strategic deterrence, assisted by the development of new tactical deterrence options, can establish known consequences for destabilizing actions and provide a a clear and consistent framework for the use of military power in a new and changing form of conflict.

With the largest refugee crisis the world has known since World War II stretching the capabilities of our allies and creating ethno-religious conflict at home, the threat of global instability from rogue nations testing our will and military might, and fellow world powers participating in questionable behavior across the world, we are once again facing the consequences of appeasement, reimagined as strategic patience.  While the recent strikes in Syria and our clear messages being sent to North Korea are helpful in re-establishing geopolitical norms, they have been conducted as individual episodes instead of as part of a clear and cohesive strategy of deterrence.  It’s time we open an honest dialogue on the realistic applications of American foreign policy in establishing a world where peace and prosperity are not under constant threat, and develop consistent bipartisan policy that can transcend our current political dysfunction.

-The Millennial Federalist

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