National Interest: The American deterrence is crumbling
The United States faces a problem related to deterrence, and it doesn’t serve its purpose.
This doesn’t mean that it is about to slide into a nuclear war, but apart from nuclear wars, the US model of deterrence doesn’t seem to achieve much deterrence lately, according to the two researchers, retired US General John R. Allen and Michael Miklausek.
Generals Allen W. Miklausek, a senior fellow at the US National Defense University, said in a report published in the American Journal of the National Interest that the enemies of the United States – mainly Russia and China – don’t seem to fear the risk of failure to achieve their goals or the fear of retaliation.
Both states are seizing the initiative in aggressive behavior that ranges from information warfare, through a variety of gray zone tactics, to illegal military invasion and occupation of a neighboring sovereign state.
Either the theory of deterrence is wrong, or the West is implementing deterrence in the wrong way.
The two researchers confirmed that Russia achieved its goals, which included the annexation of Crimea, according to well-planned operations and at negligible costs.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his large-scale war against Ukraine, indifferent to threats and warnings from Western countries.
On the other hand, China – described as an accelerating threat – has been stealing Western intellectual property without relent or apology for years, too, at negligible cost.
China has also militarized the South China Sea, militarized a tolls in disputed waters, and threatened neighboring countries that dared challenge its strategic claims, in addition to numerous violations.
All this was met with audible protests from the West and limited economic sanctions, but nothing was enough to deter what China was doing.
Real deterrence depends on the will of the United States and the West and their ability to inflict heavy losses on the enemy
If the enemies believe that intervention will prevent them from achieving their goals or that they will suffer severe retaliation and dire consequences, they will be deterred.
They added that deterrence requires credibility, and this is what the West in general and the United States in particular lack.
The inability of America and the West to show the will and ability to retaliate will lead to any unreal deterrence undermining deterrence itself.
The fear of an escalation of the war in Ukraine has created an atmosphere of self-deterrence.
There is a fear on the part of America and the West that any act of retaliation will exacerbate the situation and unleash an upward spiral that may approach or even exceed the nuclear threshold.
While this is understandable, this thinking severely constrains any credible demonstration of America’s and the West’s ability and will.
Meanwhile, the enemies continue their continuous multi-directional campaign against the national interests of America and the West, taking advantage of what they see as paralysis on their part.
The two researchers pointed out that the lack of credibility encouraged enemies who would inevitably test the restraint of the US and the West, and seek to measure and understand the point at which the United States will to act coincides with the need to defend its vital interests.
At the present time, the enemies see that America’s will to act isn’t compatible with its interests.
On this basis, permanent research continues across a wide range of multiple fields, especially the cyber warfare.
The researchers emphasized that the Russian war in Ukraine clearly represents this situation.
Fear of escalation prevented the West from taking the necessary steps to end the war.
Putin made clear that economic sanctions wouldn’t deter him, and the United States and the West should have realized that economic sanctions – although they create a sense of relief, or even despite the harm they may cause to enemies – don’t deter an enemy who has determination.
It can be said that many countries other than Russia haven’t been deterred by economic sanctions.
The two researchers concluded their report by saying that what is clear is that the basic fact of the deterrence theory remains constant.
And it’s that for deterrence to succeed in any field, the enemies must fully realize that America and the West have the will and the ability to prevent them from achieving their goals or they will risk heavy losses.
The rebuilding of the Western Defense Forces over the past decade has been massive, but unfortunately it has also been weakened from time to time by paralysis and strategic ambiguity.
Declaring having a will or declaring red lines won’t be enough, and words must turn into actions.