The decision-making process in the use of threats to escalate and proliferation of the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is the highlight of the article by Keith B. Payne titled “The Fallacies of Cold War Deterrence and a New Direction”. The article makes a Cold War-style analysis of prevention, nation’s leadership is assumed to be rational and undertaking cost-benefit calculations while making policy decisions.
However, the assumption of leadership rationality tends to become ambiguous due to a variety of factors that may be unique to the context and challenger, including idiosyncratic leadership beliefs that can be critical in determining whether avoidance threats work. This article delineates a methodology for tailoring deterrence policies to specific antagonists and contexts, to “get inside” the decision-making process of the challenger, and to ascertain as far as possible the basis for its decision-making about a specific context and flashpoint.
The primary areas of interest in this framework are characteristics of the pertinent leaderships/countries, their motivations, goals, and determination, the nature of decision-making, the object of the friction (the “stakes” involved), the regional political/security context, and the sources of power available to the participants.
The article describes various escalations of violence and the proliferation of violent acts that history has witnessed. The article develops a Cold-war deterrence framework wherein “in the context of secure and severe mutual threats because decision-making will be well informed, dispassionate, and rational cum reasonable, ignores or discounts the variety of factors illustrated above” (Payne, 2003, p. 421). The author stresses the importance of an effective comparison of the Cold War prevention framework with the extremely broad spectrum of human motivations, goals, thought and values highlight the point that this framework cannot capture the reality of human decision-making. The article stresses that the decision-making process regarding political affairs is seldom guided by scientific rationality and is very difficult to fathom.
Once the article deals with the cold war decision-making process of leaders the authors do the same for the post-Cold war situation, especially for the threats of using WMD. One criterion that has been identified by the author for WMD threat by some regional powers against the USA is to deter the latter’s imperialistic pursuits: “They seek to trump U.S. conventional superiority by threatening WMD escalation just as NATO sought to deter the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.” (Payne, 2003, p. 422) This is the primary reason for the proliferation of a threat of using WMD by China, Iran, Iraq, etc.
The author argues that the decision-making process and reason for using the threat of WMD by regional powers greatly depend on the nation’s thoughts, beliefs, and values, and situations. One prime factor that influences the decision of using threats of WMD is the leader. The author states “Attempting to become familiar with the decision-making dynamics of foreign leaders, to establish an informed basis for deterring and coercing them, is not a trivial undertaking.” (Payne, 2003, p. 423) The example that the author presents to show the influence of the leader’s personality in decision-making is that of Adolf Hitler.
“Hitler’s ideology called for two primary tasks. The first was to promote Germany’s “racial purity” with an “iron fist.”47 Hitler was explicit in his genocidal intentions in this regard. In a speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, for example, Hitler, referring to “a certain foreign people” said “We will banish this person.” Only slightly later in the speech he threatened European Jewry with “a crisis of yet inconceivable proportions;” and minutes later, taking the role of “prophet,” said that another world war would lead to “the annihilation [Vernichtung] of the Jewish race in Europe.” (Payne, 2003, p. 420)
Another is the relationship between the nations and the situation that the two parties are going through, the author also stresses the cultural factors that historically have determined the affiliation of using threat and mass destruction for gaining prominence at work. The article stresses deterrence policymaking to avoid such threats of using WMD and for which understanding the decision-making process of the opponent nation assumes priority (Payne, 2003).
Payne, K. B. (2003). The Fallacies of Cold War Deterrence and a New Direction. Comparative Strategy, 22, 411–428.