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Deterence In International Politics Essay

2937 words - 12 pages

Deterrence is a theory of International relations based in Realism. Essentially, it tries to explain the situation of when two or more states threaten retaliation if attacked, in order to deter the attack. It is therefore possible to very simply state deterrence as "You hit me, I hit you." For this essay, two main questions have to be addressed, ‘Has it worked?’ and ‘Does it make sense?’ To answer these questions, I will firstly define what deterrence is, I will then examine some of the main arguments for and against it, in theory and in reality; finally, I will show some of the consequences of states following such a policy. Deterrence, as already stated, can concern itself with any form of threatened counter-attack, however, for this essay, I shall be concentrating on Nuclear deterrence, using examples from the cold war, therefore, when the word ‘deterrence’ is used, it should be taken as ‘nuclear deterrence’. Hedley Bull describes deterrence as follows: "To say that country A deters country B from doing something is to imply the following: (i) That Country A conveys to Country B a threat to inflict punishment or deprivation of values if it embarks on a certain course of action; (ii) That Country B might otherwise embark on that course of action; (iii) That Country B believes that Country A has the capacity and the will to carry out the threat, and decides for this reason that the course of action is not worthwhile." Therefore, for deterrence to occur, a state must convey a message to another state, usually "these will be the public an authoritative utterances of government officials." Secondly, to use Hedley Bulls’ language, country B would consider following a course of action which Country A does not wish and does not because of the threat - not because it has no interest to. Thirdly, Country A must be able to convince Country B that it is capable of carrying out its deterrence threat and is prepared to use it. Mutual deterrence is where two or more states deter each other from following a set of actions - effectively a stand off or a stalemate between the actors. The concept of deterrence can be seen easily in public statements, for example, Churchill told Parliament on Britains hydrogen bomb was, "the deterrent upon the Soviet union by putting her....on an equality or near equality of vulnerability," a soviet attack "would bring down upon them at once a crushing weight of nuclear retaliation" and a nuclear war "would result in mutual annihilation." Similarly, the United States issued a formal deterrent warning in January 1954 announcing an intention of "more reliance on deterrent power and....a great capacity to retaliate, instantly, by means and at places of our own choosing." This was qualified a little while later, "a potential aggressor be left in no doubt that he would be certain to suffer damage outweighing any possible gains from aggression." These...

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