Facets of Deterrence

The United States needs to have a discussion about “what deterrence looks like when we get out to 2020, 2030,” said Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Chiefs vice chairman. He told defense reporters last week in Washington, D.C., that the number of countries that the United States must deter from using nuclear weapons against it has grown “from one to more than one.” The same type of force may not deter them all in the same manner, he said. “You may actually decide you’re going to [keep] mutual assured destruction with one country,” but that same approach may not similarly compel another against aggression, he said. There’s also the issue of how to deter a non-state nuclear power, he said. Until the United States has done the “mental gymnastics” of figuring out a new deterrent scheme, Cartwright said he “wouldn’t be in favor of building too much” in the way of replacement nuclear systems for the triad. He said he is “pleased” that this discussion has at least started. (For more from Cartwright, read Confessions of a “Bomber Hater.”)