New Warfare Domains and the Deterrence Theory Crisis

Media Coverage | May 13, 2020

Currently, we witness a volatile, polarized and destabilizing international security environment that has exposed us to the grey zones of war and peace. Security challenges arising from both hybrid threats and hybrid warfare (both multiple and synchronized threats that aim to target states’ vulnerabilities at different levels covering domains other than military) seem to have held front seat on the global security agenda thereby altering the relevance of nuclear deterrence. Deterrence is generally understood as an ability to dissuade a state from embarking upon a course of action prejudicial to one’s vital security interests, based on demonstrative capability. The nuclear deterrence theory, as propounded by Brodie (Brodie 1946, p. 76), which is grounded in political realism, enriches our thought process to comprehend the potential character of nuclear weapons. The focus of nuclear deterrence was on averting wars through the psychological manipulation of an adversary’s mind. Thus, it is argued that renewed warfare domains and non-military threats seems to have marginalized the relevance of deterrence theory. Therefore, new mechanisms are required to defend societies and build a correlation between deterrence and evolving wide-raging threats that are non-military in nature. It is further argued that a long-term holistic approach to deterrence as an instrument is needed that focuses on both current military and renewed non-military threats which cover political, economic, social and digital landscape.

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