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In 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hoped that a policy of appeasement would satisfy Adolf Hitler’s territorial appetite and structured British policy accordingly. This plan was a failure, chiefly because Hitler was not a statesman who would ultimately conform to familiar norms. Chamberlain’s policy was doomed because he had greatly misjudged Hitler’s basic beliefs and thus his behavior. U.S. Cold War nuclear deterrence policy was similarly based on the confident but questionable assumption that Soviet leaders would be rational by Washington’s standards; they would behave reasonably when presented with nuclear threats. The United States assumed that any sane challenger would be deterred from severe provocations because not to do so would be foolish. Keith B. Payne addresses the question of whether this line of reasoning is adequate for the post-Cold War period. By analyzing past situations and a plausible future scenario, a U.S.-Chinese crisis over Taiwan, he proposes that American policymakers move away from the assumption that all our opponents are comfortably predictable by the standards of our own culture. In order to avoid unexpected and possibly disastrous failures of deterrence, he argues, we should closely examine particular opponents’ culture and beliefs in order to better anticipate their likely responses to U.S. deterrence threats.
Payne is so persuasive that readers will cringe, ever after, when they encounter categorical statements such as ‘the exact same kinds of nuclear deterrence that have always worked will continue to work’ (Jan Lodal). -- Air and Space Power
Not many books have the potential to make the difference between war and peace: Keith Payne’s latest expedition into deterrence country is one such. -- Colin S. Gray
So many different communities of scholars and policymakers should read Keith Payne’s bracing and sensible new book that it’s difficult to know where to begin sending copies. -- H-NET Book Review
Offers a more comprehensive and empirical methodology for formulating U.S. deterrence postures. -- Military Review
An essential text for understanding the reasoning behind the administration’s push for missile defense. (Asked whom to talk to about the current state of deterrence theory, one nuclear expert quipped, ‘If you talked to Keith Payne, you’ve talked to everyone.’). -- National Review
Cogently and carefully charts a fresh path through the badly overgrown and cluttered thicket of modern strategic thinking. -- R. James Woolsey
Payne offers an interesting empirically-based methodology in an attempt to make deterrence a more viable policy than it has been heretofore. -- Virginia Quarterly Review
Payne forces the reader to recognize how much of America’s thinking about military strategy is trapped in the categories of Cold War ‘deterrence theory.’ His fascinating book, filled with excellent material and provocative argument, offers both a strong academic contribution and much policy relevant analysis. Happily, it is well written, highly accessible. -- William E. Odom
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Deterrence strategy, Cold War, Nuclear weapons, United States military policy
Military and Veterans Studies
Payne, Keith B., "The Fallacies of Cold War Deterrence and a New Direction" (2001). Military Studies. 2.