Deterrence and compellence


-         deterrence: discourage through fear of punishment

o      choice rests with the target of the deterrence threat

o      deter an attack


Deterrence is the situation in which an actor believes that gains from pursuing a certain action are outweighed by the costs that would be imposed by other actors for taking that action.


A deters B when 1) A threatens some cost x on B if and only if B commits some action y and 2) the cost x to B is greater than the gains to B from action y.


-         compellence: encourage through application of punishment

o      choice rests with both parties

o      compel a withdrawal


Compellence is the situation in which an actor ceases or reverses actions because the costs imposed by other actors are or will soon outweigh the gains of those actions


A compels B when 1) A imposes some cost x on B after B has committed some action y and cost x to B is greater than the gains to B from action y.


-         both sides are cooperating

        o      parties must prefer limited cooperation even if only to avoid mutual disaster


Requirements of Deterrence/Compellence


Communicate the threat

-                what to not do or to do

-                the cost of defiance


Credibility of threat

-                State threatening must be capable and willing to impose punishment


Threat must be effective

-                State being threatened must fear punishment more than any other alternative.

-                Not-y < cost x


Credible Promise Implicit in Threat

-                If the threatened state does not do y, the threatening state will not punish them (deterrence)

-     If punished state complies, punishment will be reversed (compellence)

-                If not-y, the not-x

-                Failure to assure threatened state of the promise undermines deterrence



Deterrence/compellence rests on inter-dependent or inter-subjective relationships.


The accuracy of mutual perceptions about what the actors value and fear are critical to the success of deterrence attempts.



Techniques to Deter/Compel



Last Clear Chance

-         who has the last clear chance to avoid disaster?

-         abandoning the initiative and control is necessary


Power to Hurt

-         diplomacy of violence

-         punishment may compel and deter

-         no superiority of capabilities necessary


Credible v. Incredible Threats

-         can the threat be carried out?

-         will the threat be carried out?


Role of 'Hostages'

-        to endanger that which you seek to protect may better protect it

-         societies as hostages

-          military forces as hostages or trip-wires