Posts Tagged ‘Deterrence’

When you look at the popular culture, the duck and cover era of civil defense (CD) in the 1950s and early 1960s is often mercilessly mocked. The reason is likely because it seemed insane to take shelter under a desk when nuclear weapons are landing nearby.

However, in those days, the miss distances of the weapons were quite significant, far greater than they are today. As such, they were inclined to be used against soft targets like cities and industrial areas, and less so against hardened military targets. Duck and cover was actually a reasonable bit of preventive guidance for these inaccurate city killers.

However, modern nuclear weapon delivery systems have far greater accuracy. For example, the Claremont Institute’s says a Trident D-5 has 90 meter accuracy. Duck and cover might make a real difference when a weapon misses its target by two miles; not so much when that miss distance is down to 300 feet.

But here we are, fifty years later after the duck and cover era and it would appear much of the world (the parts of the world that make good targets for those who would disrupt our security) is stuck with… duck and cover. What’s up with that?!

First, there is the general weakening and unilateral disarmament of the U.S. nuclear umbrella associated with New START but also with the administration’s decision to depend more on conventional forces (which by the way are likely headed in one direction; down) for U.S./allied security needs. Next, there’s nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Pakistan; Iran’s apparently imminent nuclear breakout; likely growth in Chinese nuclear weapons and certain growth in delivery systems) and even greater missile proliferation. Finally, we’re certain to have less-capable-than-hoped for missile defenses as a result of expected defense cuts.

What’s left? Duck and cover, folks, duck and cover.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with taking shelter, and it’s certainly prudent. In fact, given the high-return/low-risk and cost of civil defense, it seems our CD capabilities should be our first step without ignoring the other aspects of deterrence (missile defense; reliable, capable, and available nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and warning methods; conventional capabilities; diplomacy; etc.) which are all part of the deterrence recipe.

When your options are only limited to duck and cover, your approach becomes one of hope (“I sure hope those nuclear weapons miss us!”) and it’s generally well-known within military circles that hope is not a substitute for strategy.

Finally, hope-is-not-a-strategy also explains why the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan have vital interests (and investments) in missile defense.


The game overOverseas Contingency Operations (OCO, pronounced oh-koh) is the administration’s attempt to rebrand the Global War On Terror (GWOT, pronounced gee-wot).  But whether we’re talking OCO or GWOT, or even WTF (that’s winning the future), there are lessons learned from the Cold War that have mapped over to today’s anti-terror effort. 

Those lessons are those of deterrence, not quite the traditional deterrence of the Cold War, but an even more broad definition of the term which at its most fundamental is about stopping an others from taking undesired action(s). 

First rule: if it ain’t funded, it ain’t, and that includes terrorist networks.  How is this like the Cold War?  The USSR’s collapse was fueled by the ineptness of a command and control economy.  Terrorists who lack funding can’t communicate, plan, travel, or buy the killing tools they need. 

Next, psychological operations are in the eye of the beholder. During the Cold War, we used things like the Voice of America to get out a pro-U.S. message.  While that’s still done, with the OCO/GWOT, there have also been elements of a disinformation campaign (BTW, that’s one of my dream jobs).  It seems the U.S. may have created some over-the-top internet jihad pap (itself likely to be in competition with terrorist created over-the-top internet jihad pap) which works to the detriment of the terrorist recruitment cause.

Third, command and control requires communication.  Can’t communicate except by passing notes written on napkins or thumb drives?  Expect your effectiveness to diminish.  And in time, expect your courier(s) to be found, fixed, tracked, targeted, and to lead to Mr. Big Shot Terrorist.  From there, it’s just a matter of time.

Fourth, even suicide bombers respond to the world around them.  That is to say, they have egos, and conversely, fears.  These fears seem to revolve around the desire to not appear inept, foolish, or incompetent.  A suicide bomber who has a plausible but distant chance to take out some friendlies may be a serious threat; one who thinks he has zero chance of success and will only be killing or injuring himself is much less dangerous.

Finally, in areas where terrorists are operating, the locals have to pick a side to be on, even if they are not ideologically committed to jihad.  Picking the terrorist side may result in “a drop in well-being” of the individual’s family.  That is also known as making an offer that won’t be refused.  Again, deterrence (someone is stopped from doing something, fearing the consequences).

So is ‘”terrorist deterrence” at its heart the stuff of nuclear deterrence?  In many ways, yes.  And as an aside, although the article asserts “There simply was no way for America to capture and kill its way to victory,” that is more an issue of real politic.  The truth was there was no way Americans would take the anti-terrorist actions (that is, waging total war, like World War II) needed to capture and kill its way to victory.

It seems the Taiwan report is…bogus.  No wait, false.

Recent local media reports that Taiwan test-fired an anti-ship Hsiung Feng 2 (Brave Wind) missile from a Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) submarine during an exercise in late June now appear to be false.

Taiwan’s Hai Lung’s have "absolutely no capability" of launching anti-ship missiles from their torpedo tubes, said a former Taiwan Navy official who worked with ordnance used on the submarines. "This is common sense since they still have problems with just launching torpedoes with the old fire control system."

So while the basic capability is still missing, the small deterrence payoff for the ‘false’ system remains valid.

Original report follows:

Defense News reports Taiwan is said to have tested a Taiwanese-developed submarine launched missile.

The reason? 

…to counter the threat of China’s fast-expanding navy

I’m thinking the fast-expanding Chinese navy won’t be too deterred by the development. 

Taiwan’s navy operates a fleet of four submarines, but only the two Dutch-built ships could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s.

Now if there were more subs and they were modern and if these missiles had nuclear weapons, the deterrence factor would have to be honored by China. But that’s a lot of ifs.

And as for the subs, there’s always the high-speed hold of the U.S. regarding Taiwanese arms sales.  But for the nuclear weapons, who Kahn the Taiwanese call?

Note: this article originally appeared in Air University’s The Wright Stuff.

Space Warfare and Space Weapons

By Mark Stout

Arms control efforts, as they pertain to the space domain, often attempt to constrain, control, or manage capabilities instead of behaviors. But this focus on capabilities instead of behaviors is misplaced. Consider the modest hammer: hammering a nail is a condoned and necessary task; hammering someone’s face isn’t.

One example of misdirected concern regards the attempt to keep space from becoming “weaponized.” Ah, you ask, but just what is space weaponization? As a point of intellectual departure, the group Reaching Critical Will offers this:

Space weaponization is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices that have a destructive capacity. Many experts argue that ground-based systems designed or used to attack space-based assets also constitute space weapons, though they are not technically part of the “weaponization of outer space” since they are not placed in orbit.

Space is one of the “global commons” which also include international waters, the associated sea bed and subsoil, and by some definitions, the Antarctic. The implied benefit of anti-space weapon campaigns is that those efforts will preserve the global commons of space for the benefit of all mankind. However, space weaponization–the capability–is not the driving issue. Rather, the concern is the behaviors–space warfare.

Space warfare is the process of military struggle regarding information that’s delivered in, to, through, or from the space domain, and it can happen with or without space weaponization. While space weaponization gets all the headlines, it’s really a subset of space warfare which is both more common and more significant.

Space warfare is characterized by purposeful behaviors which affect the delivery and availability of space domain products and services. As such, space warfare is concerned with the behaviors that are used to create particular outcomes. Space warfare might affect a space capability in a temporary and reversible manner, or as with a kinetic anti-satellite attack, it might be permanent and irreversible.

The ability to conduct space warfare has become a pragmatic necessity for U.S. adversaries, and by extension, for the United States and its allies. However unlike Clausewitz’s definition of war, space warfare — as with cyber warfare — is generally going to be (but is not limited to) an act lacking physical force. Space warfare, even when it employs temporary and reversible methods, can still be used to compel an enemy to do our will.

If someone intentionally jams a GPS or communications signal, the event doesn’t entail a weapon in space, but the intent and effect created is that of space warfare. Similarly, if an intelligence community spacecraft is laser-dazzled for the purpose of affecting its ability to gather information, this too is an act of space warfare.

Finally, a satellite is just an information gathering and disseminating device until it runs into someone else’s satellite. At that point — depending on the intent of those controlling the satellite — it is at minimum a space debris dispenser or even a de facto space war machine. “Ramming speed,” to borrow from Ben-Hur, is easily enough achieved in space when objects are travelling in a nominal low earth orbit at seven kilometers per second.

In all of these examples, space warfare is being purposefully used to deprive users of space domain delivered information. So why is it space weaponization and not space warfare is the issue that warrants so much of the arms controller’s attentions?

The most compelling hypothesis is the anti-space weapon campaigns are largely an attempt to pre-empt space-based missile defense. Space-based missile defense would be exceedingly useful in countering attacking ICBMs before those ICBMs deploy countermeasures which can confuse and overwhelm defensive efforts. But why would anyone want to stop incoming ICBMs which would almost certainly be loaded with weapons of mass destruction, even if it requires the use of (gasp!) “space weapons”?

Beyond consulting Freud, it may be because space-based missile defense upsets the arms control community’s sense of balance. This desire for balance often has the enduring and overarching goals of stability and equitability. Unfortunately, the results are security policies which support a stable “balance of nuclear terror” with a fair and equitable “mutually assured destruction.”

Space warfare, whether it includes space weapons or not, is merely a political act; a Clausewitzian extension of competing terrestrial wills between political bodies. As such, to prevent space warfare — or space weapons — one must prevent earth warfare and earth weapons, propositions which have eluded mankind for some time.

It’s been said the three stages of innovation are: 1) it’ll never work; 2) it’ll cost too much; and 3) I can’t believe we weren’t doing this before. As peace has yet burst out all across the global commons, let’s start working more on addressing behaviors like space warfare and less on often misnamed capabilities like “space weapons.” To modernize and again borrow from Ben-Hur, let us keep our space warfare shields ready and our swords bright as we ponder a future that includes space-based “weapons.”

Mark Stout is a researcher and analyst at the Air Force Space and Cyber Strategy Center and administers its unofficial blog Songs of Space and Nuclear War. The opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and may not reflect the views and policies of the US Air Force or the Department of Defense.