People often say that deterrence is the key to understanding nuclear weapons. It is the heart of the issue. This is a fundamental confusion.
Deterrence is not connected with nuclear weapons in any way. The need for deterrence is the result of the advent of inter-continental missiles. Deterrence is a threat that you use to defend yourself. “If you do that, I will do this.” Deterrence is distinct from defense, which is the protection of cities, people, resources, and so on by physically interposing an obstacle (a wall or a wall of troops or other hindrance) between the enemy and his goal.
Usually, deterrence is only used when defense is not possible. Given a choice between actually putting some obstacle between your enemy and his goal or making deterrent threats, nations throughout history have almost always chosen defense. Threats, including deterrent threats, … Read More »