The Great American Gamble: Deterrence Theory and Practice from the Cold War to the Twenty-First Century
Recorded on July 28, 2008
Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
The Great American Gamble examines the past, present
and prospective future of U.S. deterrence theory, strategic forces,
nuclear weapons and policy. Based on an extensive review of
previously classified documents, it demonstrates how and why U.S.
Government policies came to adhere to the guidelines established by
the theory of deterrence popularly called the "balance of
terror." Dr. Payne presents the assumptions, judgments and
hopes that led U.S. policy makers in consecutive Republican and
Democratic administrations to that choice. While acceptance
of a balance of terror as official policy was challenged on
occasion during the Cold War, it persisted as the lodestar for U.S.
strategic policies. Most Americans presumed they were
defended, but U.S. Government choices were predicated on the
belief, as noted by Henry Kissinger, "that vulnerability
contributed to peace, and invulnerability contributed to war."
Looking forward, the key question is, to what extent do the
basic tenets of Cold War academic deterrence theory provide useful
guidance to contemporary strategic policy given contemporary
threats and conditions? Dr. Payne argues that familiar Cold
War guidelines are a manifestly imprudent basis for U.S.
policy. Much of what we believed we knew about deterrence
during the Cold War now appears to have been more fleeting hope