Deterrence, Revisited

By Sebastian Sprenger / March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Kevin Chilton mentioned an interesting document in his prepared remarks for a congressional hearing this week -- the "Global Deterrence Plan," approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last fall.

In his prepared testimony, the general described the classified document as a "significant step toward integrating deterrence activities across government agencies and with Allied partners."

Officials are tight-lipped about exactly what role non-military government agencies and partner nations would have to play in a concept traditionally mentioned in one breath with America's atomic weapons might.

An article by Chilton in the spring issue of the Air Force's Strategic Studies Quarterly offers some additional perspective.

In his piece, titled "Waging Deterrence in the 21st Century," Chilton describes deterrence as a "inherently a whole-of-government enterprise." He calls for an "innovative process" that would help "consider and include interagency deterrence courses of action, to make whole-of-government decisions on what courses of action to implement, and to coordinate their execution upon selection."

As for the role of allies, Chilton writes this:

U.S. friends and allies share our interest in deterrence success. Because of their different perspectives, different military capabilities, and different means of communication at their disposal, they offer much that can refine and improve our deterrence strategies and enhance the effectiveness of our deterrence activities. It is to our advantage (and theirs) to involve them more actively in "waging deterrence" in the twenty-first century.

One of the most important contributions that our friends and allies can make to our deterrence campaigns is to provide alternative assessments of competitors’ perceptions. Allied insights into how American deterrence activities may be perceived by both intended and unintended audiences can help us formulate more effective plans. Allied suggestions for alternative approaches to achieving key deterrence effects, including actions they would take in support of—or instead of—US actions, may prove invaluable.

As in the case of interagency collaboration, we need to develop innovative processes for collaborating with our friends and allies to enhance deterrence.