What is military deterrence?
Deterrence is the ability to prevent an unwanted military action through the threat of consequences, thereby avoiding a larger conflict that would put American lives at risk. Effective deterrence uses clearly communicated consequences backed up by a perceived willingness to follow through on them.
Learn more about how communication can make or break deterrence in this PolicyEd video.
Why is deterrence useful?
Deterrence doesn’t rely on trust or hope that an adversary is good natured. Instead, it’s based on the expectation that our enemies will see restraint as the rational or only option. Deterrence is about preventing unwanted behavior, not compelling it. If done correctly, you don’t need to use military force at all.
Deterrence is a crucial component of US foreign policy. To learn more, watch this video from our Intellections series:
Are there historical examples of deterrence in foreign policy?
Lessons from history have clearly shown what happens when powerful nations do not show their might. During World War II, the Allied nations were far more powerful than the Axis powers, but their hesitancy in joining the war effort resulted in millions of deaths. Deterrence is about not just military might but also a mindset. For it to work, nations must show their capability to exert force and their clear willingness to use it when needed.
To learn more, watch “Deterrence in Foreign Policy: Lessons from World War II” below.