For half a century, deterrence was the backbone of U.S. national security strategy. But now, Washington doesn't seem to know how and when to use it properly. The United States has needlessly applied deterrence to Russia, failed to apply it when it should have against Iraq and Iran, and been dangerously confused about whether to apply it to China. U.S. policymakers need to relearn the basics of deterrence in order to apply it successfully in the appropriate circumstances.
Micah Zenko argues, "routine and unchallenged assertions highlight what is perhaps the most widely agreed-upon conventional wisdom in U.S. foreign and national security policymaking: the inherent power of signaling."
People love to talk about "red lines" for all sorts of challenges, and the Iranian nuclear program is no exception. The United States can, in principle, threaten stronger sanctions if Iran crosses certain red lines. It can threaten military action if Iran crosses others. But it's not clear that setting red lines—particularly in public, where failing to follow through on threats can be costly—is a productive course.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey held this press conference on January 10, 2013. They discussed Afghan President Karzai's visit, defense sequestration, and possible chemical weapons in Syria.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for South Asia Doug Lute held this conference call on January 8, 2013, to preview President Karzai's visit to the White House.
The U.S. Senate voted on December 4, 2012 to approve amendment 3262 to the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254. The amendment requires Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees regarding U.S. military options in Syria.
The argument of Thomas Ricks' new book, The Generals, is simple: since the end of World War II, the combat performance of the U.S. Army has been subpar, primarily because the highest-ranking generals have been reluctant to fire underperforming generals lower in the chain of command.
Micah Zenko says that while it's admirable for senior defense leadership to adopt a forward-looking approach, the U.S. military cannot predict where future conflicts will emerge and where they will be deployed to fight.
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