Journal Article, International Relations, issue 3, volume 24
The US relised on atomic bombs as the essential counter to conventional Soviet forces. The USSR constructed its own bombs in turn, and for decades the analysis of nuclear deterrence was almost exclusively concerned with the two superpowers. In the twenty-first century, the nuclear world no longer displays that mirror-image symmetry and can now be viewed as unipolar, regional, multipolar or stateless. Nuclear deterrence that seemed such an established technical reality during the Cold War should be recognized as a psychological construct that depends on threat perception and cultural attitudes, as well as the values, rationality and strength of political leaders who themselves have to mediate between groups with vested economic or military interests. Brown and Arnold argue that nuclear deterrence is meaningless against extremist terrorists. Our survey of its quirks leads us to believe that nuclear deterrence is a far less foolproof and reliable global security mechanism than many assume.