vagaries of the post-Cold War era, the spectrum of what has to be deterred is much wider, and it is obviously much more complex to make deterrence work in this "new world disorder."
The problems that increase the complexity of achieving our national security objectives are not limited to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and advanced weapons technology but are rooted in the great gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots," in the profusion of information increasingly available to the most distant corners of the world, and in our inability to understand the value structures of, and communicate clearly with, our potential adversaries. These factors make it more complicated to figure out how to make deterrence succeed.
To state it simply, deterrence theory is not substantially different from what it was in the pastalthough it has been broadened to include conventional means and must provide an affordable replacement for the stabilizing mechanisms that the bipolar power structure of the last four decades imposed on non-superpowersbut deterrence practice is in transition. Ashton Carter's emphasis on counterproliferation, and Paul Nitze's article discussing whether precision-guided munitions (PGM) are an alternative to nuclear weapons, illustrate some of the current thinking, as does Charles Allan's excellent Washington Quarterly 1994 article, "Extended Deterrence."
Other trends brought on by the demise of the bipolar world that bear on any new approach to the practice of deterrence include:
• Less predictability of the international scene and a recognition of the need for longer-range policy focus and better integration of the political, diplomatic, economic, and military elements of foreign policy;
• Fewer distinctions between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons;
• The insufficiency of any single conventional or nuclear system as a deterrent; and
• Self-deterrence from using nuclear weapons.
Although it continues to be necessary to maintain an appropriate level of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future, the futility of mutual nuclear destruction appears to have been recognized by at least the major powers. For them, this has made possession of weapons of mass destruction more important than using them, and with the increasing precision and lethality of conventional weapons, some of the burden of deterrence will likely shift to conventional weapons. However, the strategic leverage and "status" associated with possessing nuclear weapons continues to attract nuclear aspirants who, through their nuclear weapons programs, seek a strategic advantage not provided to them by their geography, resources, politics, or conventional military power.