To speak of “Deterrence” or, as the French say, “”Dissuasion” might have seemed a reasonably clear concept during the Cold War, in the sense that the nuclear balance between the East and the West carried the fear of retaliation: today, it is all much more complicated. The analysis of Mario Rino Me, presents the question in its modern meaning, with all the facets that it implies and, above all, widens the vision and the dimension itself of the Deterrence. At the same pace, however, the levels of risk “proliferate”, which are no longer simply connected to the nuclear threat, but are extending to the economic “default” of entire countries, to international terrorism and to the presence of the great criminality, as well as to the area crises. The author gives us a new and more pertinent view of the idea of “Deterrence”.
The Deterrence, after a period of oblivion, resurfaces in the positions taken on the nuclear arms question by illustrious American and German personages. It is certainly not a new subject, since Sun-Tzu, in the 4th Century B.C., attributed to what we define today as Deterrence, the highest expression of strategy, much more preferable, by far, to success on the battlefield. A conditioned success, nevertheless, from the assumption “to know the enemy and oneself” (1)
. A matter, therefore, inseparable from the policies of security, elevated in the Cold War to positions that Henry Kissinger summarizes in these terms: “the nuclear era has reduced the strategy to the Deterrence and the Deterrence to an esoteric intellectual exercise”. As we shall see in this study, we are dealing with a matter thwarted even by its various representations. From a semantic point of view, the term is presented as a neologism, derived from the English “deterrent”, in its turn derived from the Latin “deterrere” (2)
which, in the English/Italian dictionaries (Webster, Chambers, Treccani) is expressed as “arms so powerful that they distract the enemy from aggressive intentions”. In the French vocabulary (Larousse) this definition finds its correspondent in the term “dissuasion”. Already from the initial phrase these various tonalities in the scale of effects in the field of conscience give rise to various representations of the same concept, with possibility of misunderstandings. In the military lexicon of the USA Combined General Staff, we find a more complete definition: “to make subject withdraw from action for fear of the consequences. The Deterrence is a mental state generated by the existence of a believable threat of unacceptable retaliations (from the consequences)”. The Deterrence embraces, therefore, multiple aspects, which make it complex, and is declined in various dimensions, from politics to technology, strategy/doctrine and to social-psychological sciences. But there are also repercussions on the moral and legal level.
Then, with regard to the substance, the fact that it concerns the power of influencing decisional processes through the use and/or the threat of force makes it a kind of taboo. There is, as a result, little propensity to speak about it; if this is the case, as Peter David observes leader-writer of foreign policy of the Economist (3)
: “just speaking about it could have practical repercussions”. As a matter of fact, there is something new in the air and as usual in great events, at first, we hear about them in vague whispered form.
The events of these last few months, notwithstanding the temporary flashes of those things that, with fine distinction, are called military operations (in Georgia, in the Gaza Strip etc.,) lead us to consider that it has come, if not to the end of the line, to crucial junctions of historical cycles [wars by choice, Western supremacy (note: not leadership)] and it is the beginning of something new (4)
. In its coming, the paradigm of the security now gives prominence to the aspect of the economy, recognized practically everywhere as the weightiest political force. In fact, on one side, the Governments concentrate more and more on the development/well-being (we move, therefore, in a picture of “human security”), on the other side, the intertwining on a global scale of the economic-industrial relations contributes to attenuate the situations of crisis. And in a context, such as the actual one, of volatility and uncertainty, this is more than a little. To say it like Thomas Freidman, one glimpses “a world in which diplomacy and multi-lateral regulations will no longer be a choice, but a reality and a necessity”
Furthermore, the consequences of what is define overseas as “structural change in full development” seem to have triggered a gradual (natura non facit saltus
), but irreversible process of redistribution of world power.
While J. Attali speaks of “hyperdémocracie”, Fareed Zakaria, (5)
referring to the emerging powers speaks of “the rise of the remaining
”, no longer object or spectator, but actor, and he concludes: “it is the birth of a real world order
In tune with this, the projections of the National Intelligence Council of Washington prefigure a global multipolar system. From this viewpoint, the ‘strategies of projection of the stability’ followed at the bridge of the century (6)
, can no longer prescind from the perception of security of the counterparts and from the immanent realities of the power/territory. For example, the complicated match that is being played at the moment in Central Asia, putting the relations between two regional nuclear powers under tension, brings out two aspects: on the one hand, the persistence of the realities of power of geopolitics, which can make even a regime of stability misleading; on the other hand, the need for a cooperative approach to security, as a direct consequence of what Kenneth Walz already defined in 1979, “the password of inter-dependence
. And as is recognized by all sides, an institutional picture of cooperation can bring about that the situations of tension do not become real and proper crises. But to be able to operate effectively, the international or multipolar frameworks require the support of mediation and negotiation activities.
The analyses formulated by the NATO and by the European Union (EU) give prominence to a general sharing of the security diagnostics. There are many elements salient to the common factor. In the meanwhile, the trans-national character of the taxonomy of the challenges, risks and threats, in a context in which the barriers, also geographical, do not seem to protect more than they did before.
In the case in point, the analysts place trans-national terrorism at the top of the list of preoccupations, in relation to its capacity to pose a strategic challenge of range, lethality and modus operandi to the International Community. In this regard, R. Cohen, globalist of the International Herald Tribune, observes that the words of Barack Obama, signal the end of the controversial “war against terrorism” (8)
now excluded from the list of challenges (and the language that is used really does count). Terrorism is followed by the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” [an unfortunate definition, noted with the acronym WMD (9)
], the “failed States”, organized crime, the repercussions of the state of health of the planet (climatic changes, development sustainability) as well as the evolutions in the political-social fields (governance, demography etc.,).
With regard to the most immediate threat of terrorism, a general increase in the activities of the cells and radical groups has been registered, the most significant manifestations of which range from West Africa to Central Asia. Usually, however, behind the executants external manipulators are hidden, who pursue precise objectives, such as the recent coordinated attacks of Mumbai and Lahore have demonstrated. Furthermore, terrorist plans, discovered here and there, confirm that terrorism will remain an appetizing form of combat, that the security cannot be compartmentalized and that the external and internal security are inseparable.
Regarding the subject of the “insolvent States” or on the brink of being so, the ex-Secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, more than once stated, in the final phase of her term of office, that: “the principal threat now comes from the weak States, rather than from enemy powers
”. It is true. After the fall of authoritarian systems, it is precisely the void of power and the fragility of the new structures that give rise to great concern.
As far as the galaxies of criminal associations are concerned, it is accepted that organized crime, in addition to being difficult to crush at the roots, it flourishes in the instability of the fragile Nations.
Economic crisis, guaranteed access to the energy resources and to other vital elements (raw materials, but also food stuffs (editor’s note: it’s no accident that food security is beginning to be spoken of) can be considered the next strategic challenges. In the markets dimension, the energy commodities are revealed as a real and proper enigma. However, it is certain that the apprehensions we experienced last summer seem to be a sneak preview of what we can expect in the immediate future.
The decrease in the resources is real. For this reason, many Nations have reached the determination to diversify the sources and, among other things, to increase the area of the existing plants, to resume or embark on the nuclear path.
In the world of proliferation ( which comprises the components: nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical, NRBC, as well as associated technologies) the present context is characterized by two opposite tendencies: on one side, the Nations of the Euro-Atlantic system, in the rethinking and adaptation of the post Cold War military appliances, reduced the role of nuclear weapons and gave up possession of bacteriological and chemical weapons; on the other side, it is verified that a certain number of Countries are trying to acquire, above all, nuclear weapons, for their own arsenals. In fact, notwithstanding the tightening of the international regulations in the matter, the barriers both on the side of supply and that on the side of demand seem to suffer the erosion of time. The rapid diffusion of “outlawed” materials demonstrates this and constitutes a glaring proof of the existence of cracks in the architecture of the global regime of control. Furthermore, the predictable increase in the demand for nuclear materials and technologies could get interwoven with the problems of proliferation, thereby, engendering further risks. M. El Baradei, President of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAAE), in his recent annual report to the General Assembly of the United Nations, denounced a considerably elevated number of “nuclear thefts” (editor’s note: circa 600 during the course of the year under discussion), and admitted that: “the possibility that terrorists obtain materials of a nuclear or radioactive nature, constitutes a threat and, equally disconcerting, is the fact that the greater part of the stolen material has not been found
Expressions of the international willingness to combat the phenomenon, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative
(PSI) are trying to remedy these problems.
Ironically, the “toxic structures” of the “sub-primes” and derivatives that are hitting the real economy hard, are revealed to be real “improper weapons of mass effect”.
According to William J. Broad, the phenomenon of the proliferation was advanced by one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, R. Oppeneimer, as a sort of technological inevitability. For some time, the assessments of the Intelligence of the Allies continue to show that a fair number of Countries are interested in the acquisition of “non-conventional” arms, associable, if not exactly to strategic superiority, at least to massive effects. Some of these Countries, moreover, possess, or are active in the research of means of release based on missiles of the ballistic kind, which the cruise missiles can furnish, in the short term, a low cost alternative for means of precise long range launching. The missile weapons/carriers coupling could become one of the available options for those States which, for perceived need of security (real or imagined), or pushed by aggressive politics, call into question the regional “status quo
”. The scenario becomes complicated when these politics regard areas of primary strategic interest for the access and regular flow of the provisions of resources vital to the functioning of the global economy. There is also the risk that non-State entities, for example, the international terrorism, as referred to by the Resolution 1540, can acquire, traffic in, or use the gamma of NRBC materials (10)
From here, there is danger that means of civil transport (aeroplane, ships, lorries etc., can be utilized as carriers of explosive devices of massive effect (dirty bombs etc.).
The prevention of the proliferation through traditional systems (diplomacy of “dissuasione”, regimes of control on export on the side of supply and guarantee of security on the side of demand) is still, therefore, an essential element in response to this kind of threat. Nevertheless, it is necessary to keep in mind that the growing availability of dual-use technology, the diversification of the suppliers can constitute valid alternatives to the potential “proliferators! (11)
. The same Western scientific community, recognizing the lack of foundation in certain trite affirmations like, for example, the ‘facility in constructing and assembling of sophisticated explosive devices’ (12)
, has more than once launched alarm signals on the consequences of the proliferation – behind which, it seems clear by now, is the longa manus
of the United States (13)
. This confers a complex institutional and multinational dimension on the phenomenon. It is not by accident that President Obama defined the diffusion of nuclear materials as “the most serious threat which we have to deal with”.
The nuclear question is that on which, for various reasons (emotional, not the last) the general attention is concentrated. If, in the West, it is discussed in terms of utility and legitimacy, States like Iran, North Korea discern, from their respective viewpoints, the geopolitical and geostrategic advantages of possessing nuclear weapons. These are summed up in the phrase of a former head of the Indian General Staff of Defence: “… one of the principal lessons of the Gulf War of 1999, lies in the fact that if a State intends to challenge the United States, it should avoid it until it possesses nuclear weapons”.
This theorem, which bears out the validity of the Deterrence “on the chip” appears, in reality, ascribable to the previous theory, formulated by General Gallois and synthesized thus: “A Deterrence in minimum terms will constitute, for sure, the most economic and efficacious form of National Defence”. Naturally, the formulation reflects, in some respects, the logic of the so-called second rank nuclear powers of the Cold War (the United Kingdom, France and then China). This last, not being able to dispose of means for the so-called “tactics of counterforce” (14)
(preventive destruction of the weapons, costly and uncertain in light of the counter-tactics of survival), concentrated resources on the capacity of reprisal and on the physical protection against the effects of the explosions. In the case of the French force de frappe
, the dissuasive power, also against the strongest, was quantized by General De Gaulle with recourse to the anatomic analogy “one can, however, tear off an arm”.
In that epoch, the nuclear weapons, in the framework of what was defined “default strategy”, were synonymous with the rank of weapons of national survival. The theory of Deterrence was centred on the punitive approach, which led to the equilibrium of the terror of the Mutual Assured Destruction
(MAD) and to the acceptance of the vulnerability to this kind of offensive.
The basic principle rested on the assumption of being able to survive the first hit with a number of residual warheads, in such a way as to guarantee the success of the retaliation; which, as we shall see further on, contributed to a considerable increase in weapons and ammunition of the two superpowers. It was, therefore, a delicate balance which could not survive for very long, since, as is known from the theory of the systems, a climate of strong tension does not help to maintain stability. For this reason, starting from the first crisis of the missile gap (Cuba), a complex system of cooperation-consultation and control was set up (within which, the famous “hotline”), which facilitated the management of complex situations of tension. Ironically, the recent Russian/Georgian crisis highlighted that today, the direct Russian/American conversation is less frequent than that of the times of the Cold War.
The NATO Strategic Concept of April, 1999, describes the evolution of the Security context in terms which do not entirely respond to today. NATO reduced its reliance on the nuclear forces, the scope of which remains political, in the ambit of a strategy of war prevention no longer dominated by the possibility of nuclear escalation (15)
. In response to the restructuring of the nuclear position, the Alliance has American weapons at its disposition that can be launched from aircraft certified and defined sub-strategic (16)
, together with the weapons of the Trident ogive of the submarine component of Great Britain. The USA official doctrine attributes to the weapons the capacity of “supplying credible military options for the purpose of Deterrence of a vast gamma of threats, including the WMDs and imposing conventional forces” (17)
The events of the 11-9-01 made the Deterrence effect of the superpowers evaporate before a gamma of more complex challenges. From here – the necessity of adapting it to the new threats. In the segments of the strategy, the lines of orientation followed by the United States involved more guiding principles: non-proliferation (reinforcement of the soft system to prevent proliferation and acquisition of WMDs) systems of active defence (like the shield against ballistic missiles, extended also to NATO), and passive defence (substantially, capacity of consequence management), counter-proliferation (possible use of coercive means, including covert operations) and preventive diplomacy. Likewise, the requisites of the Intelligence were fitted to the need [(of maximum knowledge of the “culture” of the dominating class, personal traits, etc. (18)
]. In fact, the dynamic nature of the proliferation lends itself, in the absence of Intelligence, to nasty strategic surprises (progress in the programmes, growth and sophistication of the black market of the materials); but also the Intelligence has its limits, and therefore, the possibility of the unforeseen persists. As far as the state of readiness of the strategic forces is concerned, the tendency is to gauge the time of operative readiness, adapting it to the dynamics of the strategic context.
This because, the greater time elapsing between the decision to employ said weapons and the actual launching, as well as adding useful time to the management of the crisis, can also contribute to allay the possibility of accidental or unauthorized launchings (19)
. Finally, in the area of revitalization of the control systems, new formulas of interdiction have been individuated (such as, for example, the already cited Proliferation Security Initiative
, aggressive diplomacy (21)
, as well as measures of Homeland Security concerning ways of proliferation of the materials/possibility of release of the offence with means of conventional transport. With regard to this last aspect, it should be noted that the threat, in the maritime dimension, can be contained through operations of interdiction (this is, in synthesis, the scope of Enduring Freedom/Active Endeavour) supported by information exchanges in real time/near real time (22)
, tending to transform the sea into a controlled environment, similar to that of the air space.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the complexity of the phenomenon makes it certain there are no silver bullets. There are, in fact, objective and subjective limitations. At sea, for example, the legal connotation of ‘coalition of the willing is ‘ non-compulsory operations’; on land then, one must rely on the Police organizations and on the horizontal connections among them.
Returning to today, it can be hypothesized that from the viewpoint of some Nations, Asia/Middle-East, aspirants of nuclear weapons, the possession or threat of utilizing this type of armament, also of a relatively low yield force, can serve, in situations of fait accompli, to exercise a “regional” power of Deterrence and conditioning/coercion towards reparable interventions of the International Community.
For example, the concerned Countries seem to perceive the strategic value of these weapons as their use as a threat towards the direct regional antagonists, and the direct involvement in the theatre of global protagonists, to the point of hypothesizing, with an intimidating scope, even the use at a tactical level. It is very true, nevertheless, that they could induce the belief, on the basis of certain national security doctrine, of a preventive action, (the Press disclosed the news that Israel would have hit a structure, in Syria, associated to a nuclear facility, and that the 43rd President of the United States opposed an Israeli preventive raid against the Iranian plants at Natanz).
Over time, however, the format of the nuclear club has widened: on one side, the 5 “official” members – in addition, permanent components of the Security Council (23)
– are now joined by 3 “non-official” members (Israel, India and Pakistan); on the other side, the efforts to stop North Korea seem to have failed. Therefore, in the case of failure in the management of the Iranian nuclear dossier (24)
, it would seem just as difficult to prevent Countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia (to mention just two) from pushing ahead with nuclear programmes, thereby raising the levels of risk.
As far as nuclear arsenals are concerned, the estimation on the size of the stockpiles reveals high numbers. In an article of 2005 on foreign policy, Robert McNamara, in criticizing the policy followed up to then, by the various Administrations (25)
, draws conclusions from the investors of the club, with full knowledge of the facts. Compared to the “4500 American strategic warheads, Russia has just 3800 … Presidents Bush and Putin agreed to reduce, within the year 2012, the concentration of the weapons deployed at 1700-2200 (26)
and 1500-2200 respectively. The Strategic powers of France, United Kingdom and China are more considerably reduced, with 200-400 weapons in the inventory of each State. (While) Pakistan and India have less than a hundred each … the USA Intelligence Agencies estimate that Pyongyang has sufficient material to produce 2-8 bombs”. As it can be noted, reference to Israel in the list is missing, a taboo successfully broken by Jimmy Carter, who supplied the number of “150 or so (27)
”. Israel apart, the concentration of weapons just mentioned led the former-Secretary of Defence to ask: “What difference would there be if humanity were hit by 3000 bombs instead of the 12000 in circulation today?” Rebus sic stantibus, R. McNamara concludes that “the only path is to abolish the weapons”.
In January, 2006, President Chirac of France sustained that the nuclear Deterrence is finalized to the defence of the “vital interests … the guarantee of our strategic provisions and the defence of the Allied Countries”. He then added, with regard to the related WMD and terrorist threat, that: “The nuclear Deterrence is not designed to dissuade fanatical terrorists. For this, the leaders of those States who resort to the use of terrorist means against us, or who think, in one way or another, of utilizing arms of mass destruction, must understand that they expose themselves to a firm and adequate response from us. And this response can be conventional. But it can also be of another nature”.
France, therefore, does not consider the tactical employment of nuclear arms. Together with the United Kingdom it foresees, however, the said pre-strategic actions, such as warning launching (for example, the Electro-Magnetic Pulse
effect, (EMP), in the case of threats to vital interests. Both refuse to commit themselves in the declarative policy of the “no first use (28)
”, but in the ambit of the NPT, they have furnished “negative guarantees” to the States not armed with nuclear weapons.
In March, 2008, on the occasion of the launching of the submarine “Triomphant” (29)
, President Sarkozy, recalling that “the security of Europe is at risk” drew attention to the opportunity of “Europizing” the Deterrence function” (giving rise to a certain malaise in Berlin, not having been previously consulted).
The appeal of McNamara was echoed in 2007 in the H. Kissinger – G. Shultz – W. Perry – S. Nunn proposal for a reversal of course towards “a world free of nuclear weapons”, already sighted in the Reagan-Gorbachev vision at the end of the 80’s (and to attain this vision; limits to the arsenals, policies of trust and verification) to be realized gradually, but with sure steps. In the electoral campaign, the now President Obama, supporter of the soft power – to be expressed with leadership implied by example and action that is not expressly military – declared that: “If the United States and Russia do not “radically” reduce their arsenals, they will never be able to persuade the smaller States like North Korea and Iran to renounce their nuclear programmes”.
At the beginning of the year, 4 illustrious German personages, H. Schmidt – R. Von Weizacher – E. Bahr – H. D. Gensher (30)
, returned to the proposal of the four American “horsemen” and, in recommending respect for the existing treaties and the re-establishment of the fundamental ones fallen in disuse, they recognized that the stability in the in the Northern hemisphere, “(instrumental) to the defusing of the crises and their resolution” passes “only through stable and reliable cooperation between America, Russia, Europe and China”.
In effect, the structure of the dialogue and cooperation, which defined, at most levels, the East-West relations during the Cold War, registered much unravelling of problems. Among which (but not only): the abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missiles
(ABM) Treaty by the Americans, the consequent renunciation of the START 2 Treaty by the Russians, dispensations to the obligations of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty
(NPT by the Americans. It is worth remembering that this last mentioned is considered in the Atlantic Alliance ambit as “the milestone of the regime of non-proliferation and the reference point for the study of disarmament”.
Not of a lesser degree are the commitments assumed by the neo-President of the United States (“to allay the nuclear threat”) and of the neo-Secretary of State, which give hope to the orientations of the new administration on the subject of the reinforcement of the Treaties: START 1, in fact, the only mechanism of verifying the reduction of the strategic arms (expiring this year), and NPT, of which, the five-yearly process of revision by the signatories is provided for in 2010.
Some considerations and a proposal
Essentially, the Deterrence (with associated requisite of “possessing” or being seen as “possessor” of weapons of devastating power and, therefore, able to cause damage) aims, in a double sense, to prevent the outbreak of hostilities or the imposition of unacceptable coercion. Generally, the objective consists in the conditioning the decisional process of the adversaries, “forcing them” to desist from actions that are susceptible to exemplary retaliation or to inaction. Therefore, a Strategy of “santuarization” of the territory, which, in the logic of who aspires to the “status symbol” of the nuclear weapon, seems to guarantee, if well conducted, a sort of impunity. The Deterrence is, therefore, intrinsically complicated, insomuch as it is tied to many factors that can determine its success or failure. At the minimum, without, however, limiting ourselves to it, at a political-strategic level the “rational” calculation of costs-risks-benefits, the mechanisms of consultation of both sides can be numbered, and, at the instruments level, the availability of effective systems of communication, command and control of the forces/instruments.
In the first level, the variables at stake are functions of the culture, of the leaderships and, therefore, of the regional environment. In this regard, Keith Payne (31)
with perceptive dialectics, tends to distinguish, correctly so, between the adjectives “rational” and “reasonable”: the first, a mere calculation of cost benefits, definition of objectives and priority: the second, something more, inasmuch as the lines of conduct must be “in conformity with shared or understood values or standards”. And when one is concerned with culture and different paradigms, it is difficult to identify oneself in others (to say it as Payne does: “… to reason following the mirror-imaging and consequent deductive logic can turn out to be dangerous”.
The Deterrence, according to the context, has assumed different for formulations. In the Western point of view of the Cold War, it was associated to:
- prevention of aggression configured in threats to the vital interests (national - USA/Allies- friendly Nations);
- policy of containment, in the assumption that the combination of deployment of the forces and political declarative act could induce an adversary to consider that they could not exceed - certain demarcation lines, unharmed.
The canonical rule inferred by that experience, contemplates that the principle of the Deterrence functions with the subjects which are susceptible to it. In line with what General A. Beaufre sustained: “the game is bilateral … each one of the adversaries play, keeping limitations in mind”. It comes out that, indirectly, it is based on the almost-cooperation of the subject to condition. For example,”the strategy of the flexible response, combining military actions on the ground with the general principles, the objective is pre-established, with a certain flexibility, to maintain the conflict within certain limits”. In this regard, Professor Lawrence Freedman speaks of “the interiorizing of the Deterrence (32)
”, alluding to the fact that the recognition of the MAD, implied a typology of relations (international), in which the partners committed themselves, in the presence of the causes, not only to get to the roots, but also “to search for solutions (shared), before the differences became critical”.
On this line also Richard Ned Lebow (33)
, states: “the merit of the functioning of the Deterrence is attributed, to a certain extend, to the self-Deterrence, reinforced by the knowledge that a nuclear war would lead to self-destruction” But not everybody is in agreement. For example, Colin Gray, in his considerations on the merits of the outcome of the “cold conflict, 1947-1989” (34)
expressed strong doubts over the validity of the theories of Deterrence. After all, the conceptual scheme of theoretic evaluations, assumptions, deductions from the deduced found expression, to say it as Beaufre does, “in a mountain of conjecture, assumptions in which (the only) certainty was uncertainty”. In addition, “in the bilateral game” there could be asymmetries on the stake in the game and the risks to run. And it was just the state of hazard and uncertainty over the response of the counterpart that rendered the strategies of Deterrence not completely reliable. Therefore, it was necessary to be prepared on moral, psychological and military readiness levels, for the possibility of its failure. For this reason Deterrence finds its best definition in the formulation of strategy (35)
by General Beaufre, understood as “the art of the dialectics of the will that resorts to force for the resolution of the conflicts … the scope of which is to reach the adversary decisional process, creating conditions/situations which can make them accept the conditions that one wants to impose on them”.
We find ourselves, therefore, before dialectics, which, in difficult cases, present so many nuances that they require sociological studies (Max Weber, for example, makes a distinction between patterns of conduct “rational in value” and “rational in purpose”.
With the fear of the nuclear holocaust now in the past, uncertainty and ambiguity have been purposed sought after, in particular, in the import of official declaration (like the often used “all options remain open”, with the purpose of generating doubts on future moves). The scenarios after 11-9-01 led to a revision of the functional architecture of the United States security and, consequently, Ally; at present, it rests broadly on three multi-disciplinary pillars (36)
: 1) security and defence, homeland and forward 2) Deterrence, and 3) containment of the crises. The principle of Deterrence, which now intersects with the implications of the proliferation, was reformulated towards a prevalent physiognomy of denial/containment, rather than retaliation. Not only because of the different levels of the threat – radically changed – passing from the risk of exchange and large scale exchange with peer competitors, to the potential launching of one or a few weapons on the part of some “halfwit” on duty or to accidental launchings (37)
”; but also for the personalization to those that are defined in Anglo-Saxon slang as “local conditions” For this reason, the Americans integrated the overhaul work with the following:
- activity of counteracting the proliferation with a combination of capabilities, intended to contain the impact of the WMD also in terms of reduction of their vulnerability;
- the nuclear Deterrence with conventional capabilities matched to an efficacious Intelligence and to means of surveillance, to deny/contain the points of strength of the potential aggressors.
The Deterrence remains, therefore, central in the mother institution,
in which the national security and defence policy is identified. Moreover, a “strong and visible” effectiveness and state of readiness of the capacity of the military contribute to reinforce credibility, also in relation to the image of weakness of the West in certain areas of crisis. Nevertheless, the endemic character of volatility and uncertainness (38)
of many areas of the planet and the changed conditions in the international scenario, require thorough reflection on implementation logics (in particular, against whom? and how?) and fundamentals.
Analysts of the field (39)
agree on the fact that, as the already cited Richard Lebow sustains, “the utility of the Deterrence is limited to a restricted gamma of conflicts: those in which the adversary leaderships are motivated by prospects of gain, rather than the fear of loss and are vulnerable to the threats that the defender is able to exercise in a credible manner”. The voice of placing limits to the employment of nuclear weapons begins, therefore, to gain weight in a context in which the new political-social realities make the technical-operative distinction between strategic weapons (intercontinental) and sub-strategic weapons evaporate. In fact, from a political instrument point of view, all the nuclear arms appear to be equivalent. Consequently, they cannot be seen as another instrument from the toolbox (40)
, also for the purpose of not reducing the primary (political) role and the scope (i.e. prevent the use of the nuclear weapons by others).
It is also true that effectiveness and credibility of the deterrent require material objectives. In the specific case, President Chirac had individuated it, as an instrument of State, in terrorism, likewise indicating the physical targets (decisional centres etc.,). With regard to the hypotheses evoked by El Baradei, that terrorist organizations can acquire materials of a “nuclear nature (41)
”, common sense suggests recourse to the sole forms of conventional conflict, in the framework of the retooling work of the mechanisms of prevention/control.
The containment of the proliferation, which Henry Kissinger defines “a supreme strategic problem of the present period”, becomes, therefore, a crucial theme, strictly connected to the nuclear issue.
With regard to the fundamentals, they have been synthesized by the trilogy of Beaufre in: great destructive power, good precision and capacity of penetration. This leads us to consider the operative instrument at the disposition of the Alliance. Lacking state of the art systems (among which, the air-launched cruise missile-ALCM-stand off with engagement precision), the characteristics of the present equipment on the Continent raise doubts of capacity of response to the new scenarios (at least, the weak point of the exposure of the means of aircraft to the adversary defences). In addition, this component recalls Cold War tactics, of strong impact on public opinion, always protagonist in the political scenario and watchful in matters of the use of force and its material effects. Ultimately, in a climate of growing attention to jurisprudential aspects, in particular, of the legitimacy of political scopes, of the objectives and of the physical effects of the means to employ (editor’s note, in the case of failure of the Deterrence), the present “Continental” contribution to the NATO strategy appears to be an arguable asset. But on the political level, the mainstream of the “zero option” (which seems to meet approval also in the United Kingdom), could offer a window of opportunity to the Alliance, at the present time struggling with an internal debate of identify and direction of course for its future.
But, as I said at the beginning, a new breeze is blowing. In fact, in the United States, the opportunity has made headway to corroborate the appeal of the 4 “horsemen” with a strategic thought, to facilitate the realization. The thought of the “4” has now been developed by Ivo Daalden and Jan Lodal (42)
as a process structured on various levels (declaratory policy, diplomacy etc.,) and in USA guided stages (with or without Russia) is, to judge from the contents, in full harmony with the declarations made by President Obama, in both the electoral campaign and in the inaugural speech, which can be interpreted as a double-track policy, tightening the brakes in matters of proliferation and the gradual diminishing of the stockpiles. To this is added a new tone, firm, but respectful and no longer imperious (certainly more acceptable to who, descendent from a thousand year old culture, does not appreciate being associated to those with whom the stick and carrot treatment can be used.
Today, on the background of a smaller probability of inter-state conflicts, the inter-dependence is producing, in its turn, another watchword: the collaboration, based on reciprocal respect, with prospects of coordination. In addition, concrete results to the many declarations of principle are beginning to be received. To the joint Merkel-Sarkozy appeal “… in the world of today, the alliances, and the great agreements and understanding
are more and more important (43)
”, there can to be added, with its ups and downs, a certain opening of the Russian counterpart to the proposal of President Obama to go ahead with the “radical and balanced” reduction of 80% of the respective nuclear arsenals (44)
(circa 90% of the world total). If, on the one hand, the Russian dialectics appear ascribable to a negotiation tactic to acquire positions of strength in view of the successive strategic dialogue, on the other hand, the possibility of reaching the much awaited draft of the joint evaluation of the threat no longer seems so faraway (45)
. And as is recognized by many experts, this last could be the keystone, insomuch as being founded on a diagnosis of shared security, it could pave the way to the definition of the sustainable levels of Deterrence. But also in the tough Iran, it seems that something is beginning to move: observing the official reactions, David Sanger deducts that “there is no doubt that a new dynamic is underway (46)
In this new picture, The Alliance of the Euro-Atlantic Democracy could give its own support to the strategic Russian-American dialogue on nuclear weapons and, in turn, assume the commitment to re-define its deterrent. In harmony with the tendency towards the reduction of the arsenals, one could work on a hypothesis of structure articulated on the exclusive contribution of the components located in the territories of the “declared” nuclear powers. Even though the specifically NATO stockpile does not represent a critical mass, its linkage to the reduction process could only serve as a good example also with the purpose of facilitating the effect of drawing others to follow this initiative. In this new scheme, the transatlantic tie of the sharing of the risks-responsibility could be safeguarded by maintaining, during the process, the existing structures of basing (to deal with eventual possible measures of clarification/clearing on-alarm) and entrusting to the advanced capacity of simulation. And also France, whose imminent return to the integrated structure is rumoured, could be involved in the process.
In the evolution of the Alliance towards a reason of social safety, an initiative of the kind could contribute, furthermore, to the reinforcement of its political dimension of “court of consultation” (in other words Art. 4. of the Atlantic Charter), in continuity with the proposal of Minister Frattini of March, 2004. Finally, in tune with the lines of tendency towards a governance of the global issues (revitalization of the G20, upgrading of prevention/control systems etc.), the coherent results of the Alliance could contribute to cancel the image of a West which, for its security, applies the, many times lamented, “double weight” (in our case, in fact, the maintenance of the present structure could lead to the suspicion of a sort of internal subterfuge which, screened by suspicious counterparts, would transform the NATO assets into a liability. Furthermore, with the moral high ground of the example, the “direct relations” would be reinforced between NATO and the United Nations, tried on the field in other occasions and with potential openings in matters of collaboration in structures of monitoring/control/verification to the benefit of the International Community. Finally, in the general climate of a change of tones, to resort to the understatement could benefit successful progress of the relations; the diction Deterrence, which evokes apocalyptic scenarios, could be ‘de-rubricated’ to a more appropriate and appetizing “Dissuasion”, to seal the fall of the Berlin Wall.