Ifri's Security Studies Center is pleased to inform you that
issue No. 43 of the Proliferation Papers series
has just been published:
Deterring the Weak:
Problems and Prospects
By James J. Wirtz
Strong states often fail to deter vastly weaker competitors. This paper explores some reasons of this failure and identifies factors that can increase the prospects that deterrence will succeed in these situations. It argues that deterrence fails between strong and weak powers not because the weaker party miscalculates the military balance or fails to perceive the existence of deterrent threats, but because of a perception that it is possible to circumvent deterrence. This perception is often rooted in strategic, political and social factors that the leaders of weak states believe they can manipulate to their advantage, hoping to prevent the strong from bringing their superior military capability to bear in an effective way. To illustrate these points, the paper describes some of these strategic, political and social factors that lead to optimism on the part of the weak, and identifies several considerations that should govern the behavior of stronger powers as they contemplate efforts to deter weaker competitors.
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