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Disaster Mitigation 101: Have a media strategy

From Flikr user "Simply Info"

As someone with a longstanding interest in the media coverage of Fukushima and how it seems to exculpate the nuclear industry, I was struck last night by a passage from  Eric Schlosser’s fascinating new book “Command and Control“. In it he outlines the recommendations of a top secret 1959 RAND report — authored by one-time MIT professor and Undersecretary of Defense, Fred Iklé — concerning how the US should manage the publicity fallout from an accidental nuclear bomb detonation. Schlosser quotes directly from the report:

“If such an accident occurred in a remote area, so that leakage to the press could be prevented, no information ought to be made public. […] If the accident has been compromised and public statements become necessary, they should depict the accident as an occurrence which has no bearing on the safety of other weapons.”

The report further recommended that the crisis be drained of its immediacy by establishing an authoritative “board of inquiry” that would take several months to reach its conclusions. Schlosser quotes again:

“During the delaying period the public information program should provide the news media with all possible news about rehabilitation and relief. There is always a strong and continued interest in such news after a disaster. Within a relatively short time the interest in rehabilitation tends to crowd out reports about destruction and casualties.”

Any parallels with Fukushima are, I am sure, entirely coincidental.

(Page 195 on my kindle, for anyone interested to read further.)


Policy Relevance 101: Know your audience


Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Eilene Gottemoeller

Policy relevance is a term that is thrown around in academic communities that thrive on soft money. It is what you have to figure out how to be in order to receive funding–something that fewer and fewer of us who once aspired to the Ivory Tower lifestyle can afford to ignore as even those with tenure-track jobs are asked to bring in grant money. However, what exactly being policy relevant means is not always readily apparently if you believe, as I did, that it is primarily about arguing the merits of different policy options.

When I first arrived in Washington DC a couple years ago, I had my first real conversation about what it meant to be policy relevant. As I recall, I sat down across from Jeffrey Lewis in his cramped office on K Street not sure what we would talk about. Being unsure of what you want out of a conversation in Washington can go very wrong, but with the right person it can quickly turn into a revelatory experience. At the time, Jeffrey and I were working for the same organization, but lived in very different intellectual worlds. I had only recently graduated from the University of Chicago and was still in love with knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Jeffrey had already built his very successful blog,, where the nuke policy community debates the finer points of what the US should do about the topic du jour and the validity of the intelligence on which those decisions are being made.

In the first few moments of our conversation, it became readily apparent that what I considered policy relevant was painfully naive to a Washington insider. Jeffrey asked me to name the officials who implement US arms control and nonproliferation policy and I couldn’t name a single one. I was still holding onto the mistaken notion that being policy relevant actually meant saying something meaningful about policy. In my case that meant arguing about whether and how the system of deterrence and nonproliferation works. What I learned from Jeffrey is that the process of becoming policy relevant begins with knowing your audience.

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the nominations for the top three arms control and nonproliferation positions:

The Honorable Rose Eilene Gottemoeller of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Mr. Frank A. Rose of Massachusetts, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance

Mr. Adam M. Scheinman of Virginia, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the Rank of Ambassador

These nominations, and the nomination for the top official, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller, in particular have been tied up in partisan politics for some time. As Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance, Rose Gottemoeller negotiated the New Start treaty with Russia. Not surprisingly, today she was questioned repeatedly about whether or not the Obama administration had any intention of obviating the treaty process and reducing the nuclear stockpile either in concert with the Russian, but without a formal treaty, or unilaterally. Ms. Gottemoeller repeatedly stated that the US intended to move forward with negotiating a treaty with the Russians, but that further reductions outside the treaty process were “not currently on the table.”

You can watch the hearing and read the testimony here:

There was a lot more to my conversation with Jeffrey that I will save for another post; He was in no way reducing policy relevance to the idea of influencing individual policymakers. Really his question about who holds what position was simply a rhetorical device to prove a larger point about the relationship between policy and politics. I’m still collecting answers to what it means to be policy relevant (or politically relevant, maybe?) from others in Washington. I think this is an important question for the project of nuclear philosophy and am curious what you have to say on this topic.

Jackson Lears on the Surveillance State

Over on his blog Corey Robin posted a link to an editor’s note by Jackson Lears in the journal Raritan. Robin takes issue with Lears political analysis, but is in agreement with Lears on the “fundamental question of the surveillance state,” as I am. In his note, Lears argues that the apathetic public response to Edward Snowden’s revelations is too often justified through a narrative of technological determinism. Basically, the public has already accepted that “freedom” (read: keeping services free) on the Internet comes at the expense of privacy, and anyone who takes extreme measures to insist it should be otherwise is mentally imbalanced. Lears pushes back on that explanation, arguing that authoritarian politics are not an outgrowth of technology. The problem is not the technology, it is whether or not the government uses the technology at its disposal to create a police state. Ok, fine up until now. However, in elaborating his argument he makes the following comparison to what he anachronistically refers to as “Atomic Energy”:

New technology does not negate the fundamental necessity of protecting the citizenry from an intrusive government. If the genie is out of the bottle, then there has to be away to regulate and oversee its power. Atomic energy, for example, has always posed enormous difficulties of regulation and oversight. However inadequately those problems have been addressed, at least they have periodically been the subject of public debate. There has been general agreement that the destructive power of atomic energy must be contained by vigorous oversight. The framers of the constitution could not anticipate the Internet or the myriad technologies of surveillance developed by the national security state, any more than they could anticipate nuclear weapons. But they did anticipate the abuse of government power, and they institutionalized restrictions on it in the founding document of our nation.

This analogy is puzzling. While it is true that the mandate of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is to “ensure the safe use of nuclear energy while protecting people and the environment,” the better analogy is to the nuclear weapons complex. The need to protect information about the nuclear weapons technology was used to justify the secrecy of the Cold War security state. In fact, there was a complete lack of oversight of nuclear programs and how they were funded, and the techno-scientific discourse of nuclear deterrence theory replaced public debate about the size of the nuclear arsenal with expert judgements. In that sense, what is happening today with the creation of the surveillance state is an extension and deepening of the secrecy and security culture that was already built on a technologically deterministic narrative about nuclear technology during the Cold War.

The problem with flipping Lears’ example is that it places me uncomfortably on the side of the technological determinists against whom he is arguing, where I most decidedly do not want to be.

Beauty and the Beast

Operation Hardtack

As anyone who works in the world of nuclear politics knows, the debate is profoundly repetitive. I was sitting in a meeting recently where one of my colleagues was reporting back to the group on the happenings of a conference on nuclear energy in Japan. When he was finished, a senior colleague related an almost identical experience that he had thirty years ago. Although the particulars of events change, the contours of the arguments remain the same.

It’s rare to encounter an argument that does not conform to expectations and that’s what makes Frances Ferguson’s article The Nuclear Sublime (Frances Ferguson, Diacritics, Vol. 14, No. 2, Nuclear Criticism (Summer, 1984), pp.4-10.) so remarkable. The irony, of course, is that this “new” argument is thirty years old and now it’s my turn to repeat it (in fact the entire issue of Diacritics is “nuclear philosophy”). And, if that weren’t enough, her argument is itself the repetition of a story about the tension between the beauty of human life and the janus-faced character of the sublime first told by Mary Shelly in her 1818 publication of Frankenstein.

What is so radical about Ferguson’s argument is that she enters the debate from a unique angle. She concerns herself solely with the argument for nuclear disarmament as one that lays its claim to legitimacy, not on an account of what maintaining a nuclear arsenal does to our lives today, but rather on the concern for the fate of those as of yet unborn. While the disarmament advocate Jonathan Schell identifies this future as one in which our progeny will be free from the feeling of claustrophobia generated by the constant threat of nuclear destruction, Ferguson points out the problem with a justification that prioritizes the claims of others, placing demands on and sacrifices from the self. The claims of the unborn to invade on our own claim to freedom: “To march off into a future free from nuclear peril is, from one direction, to free ourselves from claustrophobia, but it is, from another, merely to evade the claustrophobia inspired by the pressures of intersubjectivity…” The weight of the claims of the “unborn” is all the greater because the current non-existence of the future makes it pregnant with possibility, but whether or not the idea of this possibility inspires a sense of freedom or a different sense of claustrophobia is a matter of perspective.

By applying the logic of the “sublime” from an earlier era to the nuclear sublime Ferguson reveals that the disarmament advocate’s justification for eliminating nuclear weapons fails to identify or cope with that which gives rise to the desire for the sublime: to escape the claustrophobia of the everyday by existing in the presence of something greater than the self. The sublime is “the thing that is bigger than any individual, and specifically bigger in terms of being more powerful and, usually, more threatening.” From this perspective, the logic of the nuclear sublime as collective immolation is the expression of freedom in its negative sense: “the outcome of the subject’s search for self-determination is not the achievement of absolute freedom in a positive form but rather the achievement of a freedom from the conditions of existence by means of one’s nonexistence.” We are free to destroy ourselves. If the crush of the demands of others becomes too much, we are free to escape those pressures through death.

Ferguson’s writing style is so rich and pregnant with possibility itself, that it feels practically impossible to reduce her argument to a single conclusion. Each time I try, it seems like I have left the most important part out. However, what I take to be the lesson for the project of nuclear philosophy is that there is a tension between the sublime and the beautiful: “while the sublime courts the feeling of overextension as a version of individual freedom, the social world of the beautiful recoils at the way the notion of individual freedom seems stretched too thin to accommodates its various claimants.” She brings an awareness of the way that tension recurs in the nuclear debate and points us in a new direction. Rather than advocating disarmament in the name of the unborn or the fear of future destruction, Ferguson points us, instead, toward the notion that tackling nuclear disarmament is also about finding a way to live with the claustrophobia and beauty of daily life, which is different kind of imperative.


Sanctioned out and still testing


According to the  Washington Post, North Korea is sanctioned out. The country is already so heavily sanctioned that more restrictions won’t have any effect; there is nothing left to take away. Kim Jong-un doesn’t even have a real octopus to  look at any more (touching a life-size replica is much safer anyway). So what will be the response to North Korea’s latest act of defiance? Luckily for Kim Jung Il, their latest nuclear test  is not something that President Obama can simply  sweep under the rug-as much as he might like to do so. Thanks to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, there is an international organization that monitors and reports on evidence of nuclear weapons tests. That frees up Kim Jung Un to lay his gaze on  more important things  because others are doing the work of publicizing the size ( 7kt) of his nation’s  nuclear test. In fact, not to be out done by Iran, North Korea tested just in time to warrant a mention in Obama’s State of the Union address. He singled out North Korea as a threat, but didn’t further elaborate on earlier statements condemning the test and calling for “swift and credible action” from the international community.  North Korea has perfected the art of bringing powerful members of the international community to the bargaining table, holding out the carrot of giving up its nuclear program in order to compel the provision of goods and services in return for the promise of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. It’s a good gambit as long as North Korea can keep it up.


Deterrence Ball

Deterrence Ball

US Strategic Command, the institutional owner and conductor of the American nuclear arsenal, gives out knick-knacks at its (semi)public events: pens, desk toys, lapel-pins – what Lynn Eden refers to as “tchotchke” and I prefer to think of as “swag”.

I learned this a few months ago, at “StratCom’s” annual ‘Deterrence Symposium’ in Omaha, Nebraska, where the senior suits and brass of the US nucleocracy gather to reassess and reaffirm their raison d’être.

These goodies appeal to me in a sardonic sort of way. To my mind, at least, their mundanity belies StratCom’s apocalyptic purpose, and testifies to the intellectual distance that nuclear interlocutors have created between themselves and their abysmal subject matter. I spent my breaks amassing a small arsenal of swag, most of which now adorns my apartment in Bristol.

Pride of place in the new collection is a ‘stress ball’ painted like a globe with StratCom’s logo on it: a miniature world you can hold in the palm of your hand and casually crush when you’re under pressure.

Anyone at the symposium in search of a metaphor would not have had to look far.

The ball reminds me of Weber’s misgivings about bureaucracies and their structural indifference to moral purpose. Deterrence and introspection have never been compatible. Omaha is littered with missile silos, each controlled by uniformed men and women who pack the kids off to school every morning and then report to their bunkers for duty, fully prepared to end the world should duty require. The organization to which they report hands out branded stationary.

We traditionally think of the advent of nuclear weapons as a problem for security researchers, but perhaps the most pressing questions it  raises are sociological and anthropological. They have to do with our relationships with institutions, and our institutions’ relationships with the societies they ostensively serve.

Nuclear Policy and the Politics of Knowledge Production

“The international security environment has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War. The threat of global nuclear war has become remote, but the risk of nuclear attack has increased…These changes in the nuclear threat environment – especially the heightened concern about nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation and the less dangerous strategic interaction between the United States and Russia – have not emerged overnight. They have developed over the last twenty years, and Administrations of both parties have responded with modifications of U.S. nuclear weapons policies and force posture. But those modifications have not gone far or fast enough. As the President has said, we have to ‘put an end to Cold War thinking.’” Nuclear Posture Review Report, April 2010

If policymakers want to “put an end to Cold War thinking” they will have to invest in creating an intellectual space for new thinking at the level of basic theory. It is not enough to ask for innovation at the level of policy. There must also be an active investment in over-turning entrenched interests among intellectual elites in maintaining existing paradigms. There is a politics of knowledge production that is relevant to the process of legitimating any large-scale policy transformation. The kinds of questions addressed at this level will not necessarily produce results that are immediately relevant to any one policy, but rather will lay the conceptual and theoretical foundations for a new program of study. There was an opening of this nature within the US academy during the 1990’s due to the failure of prominent scholars within the field of International Relations to foresee the end of the Cold War. However, that temporary opening has been replaced with a resurgence of interest in deterrence. The current trend is to look for ways to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while expanding the practice of deterrence to encompass cyber and space with the ultimate goal of achieving cross-domain effects. Work on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament is alive and well among policy-oriented think tanks, but is still underrepresented at the level of theory. [1]

At the dawn of the nuclear age, scholars found a new type of institutional support and interdisciplinary environment for an active debate at the level of theory, which yielded implementable strategic policies, and effective operational and technical systems. [2] As a fully mature discourse, the deterrence paradigm includes robust debate and activity at the concrete, operational level, at the level of applied ideas as realized through the strategic policies that directed those actions, and at an abstract level of theoretical analysis through which we comprehend the nature of human interactions with social and material environments, articulate what is politically possible, and make value judgments about what is desirable.

Responding to the call that US President Barack Obama made in his April 2009 speech delivered in Prague to “put and end to Cold War thinking” in US nuclear policy will require a similar shift in the relationship between means, ways and ends in nuclear strategy that occurred in response to the introduction of nuclear weapons. Creating that shift will require more than a response at the level of policy. In fact, the transformation is already underway at the operational and policy levels. It is the realm of theory that has yet to catch up. With a few notable exceptions, theoretical innovation has lagged behind changes in other realms. Entrenched institutional interests among established intellectuals make it difficult to see beyond the existing paradigm, placing limits on innovation in the academic realm and hampering the developing of a robust theoretical discourse to compete with the nuclear deterrence paradigm.

As Philip Taubman revealed in his book, The Partnership, this limitation exists even among reform minded deterrence experts. In 2010 leaders and innovators of the Cold War order, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn and Sidney Drell, gathered a group of forward thinking defense intellectuals for another in a series of conferences held at the Hoover Institution to discuss alternatives for moving toward a new paradigm. Yet, Taubman reports that they were unable to escape the strictures of deterrence theory’s foundational assumptions. They exhibited an “enduring devotion” to nuclear deterrence, ultimately succumbing to the seductive qualities of its logic. Taubman also reports that the resistance to any idea of moving beyond the current paradigm was even stronger at a 2009 gathering of defense experts convened by the directors of the Los Alamos and Livermore National Labs. There Sidney Drell and William Perry were confronted with a breed of deterrence purist that insists on maintaining a large nuclear arsenal with numbers determined exclusively by military target planners, arrived at independent of any political guidance or considerations such as treaty limitation. An idea to which Perry responded by pointing out that targeting plans do not exist independently of political guidance. [3]

Shlutz, Perry, Kissinger, Nunn, Drell and others like them understand the political character of the Cold War nuclear order and the conflict that they played an important role in guiding to a safe conclusion. They have articulated an ambitious and forward-looking policy agenda based on intuitions developed out of many years of practical experience, at the center of which is a basic hypothesis about the relationship between military deterrence, arms control and nonproliferation, and the goal of nuclear disarmament. This hypothesis is encapsulated in the following statement from their 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed:

“Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations. Without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.” [4]

In other words, what Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn posit is that enhancing the credibility of the US pledge to disarm is necessary (although possibly not sufficient) to motivating the cooperation of states in restricting access to sensitive nuclear technology and reducing the incidence of nuclear proliferation. This assertion is testable, but since their hypothesis is not derivable from any existing theoretical framework, efforts at testing have looked at it through an empirical lens and not yet considered the full range of hypotheses.

Developing additional conceptual tools is the first step towards having an intellectual infrastructure from which to draw to out new hypotheses and possibilities for political action. This does not necessarily mean that deterrence will be discarded, but that there will be more strategic concepts in the policymaker’s toolbox. Without those resources, we are likely to return to what we know because policymakers have neither the time nor the patience to listen while concepts are built, nor should they. It simply takes too long to form a concept from a group of principles or ideas. The concept of deterrence was built and disseminated methodically over 50+ years through hundreds of briefings, thousands of conferences, millions of pages, and many lifetimes of intellectual work. It is now the intellectual tool available on short notice when they are called on to articulate three possible responses to Iran in one page or less—which brings to mind Maslow’s aphoristic hammer: If all you have is the concept of deterrence, every nuclear threat becomes a conversation about how many nuclear weapons are necessary to maintain a credible deterrent threat.

Today we take for granted that ‘nuclear deterrence’ can stand alone as a phrase in a one-page policy document. There is a reasonable expectation that decision makers will understand that it refers to the manipulation of nuclear threats to ensure that the costs to an adversary of military aggression will outweigh the benefits. Yet, back in 1946 when Bernard Brodie first proposed the ideas that are routinely accepted today as the foundation of deterrence theory, whether and how nuclear deterrence would work was not at all clear. The suggestion that the US would produce an entire category of weapons for the sole purpose of preventing rather than waging war was considered strange to the point of being absurd. [5] It went against a set of foundational assumptions about the nature of the international system and the role of the military in maintaining the security of the nation. When the civilian and military leadership in the US were still working within the existing policy paradigm and endorsing strategies to win nuclear wars through massive retaliation, Brodie was already asking a new and more fundamental set of questions. He was talking about atomic technology as revolutionizing the ends of military strategy itself, famously claiming that “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them.” [6]

Deterrence—not simply as a tactic, but as a national security strategy—gives rise to new forms of power politics in which states play out international conflicts by bargaining over the use and possession of armaments. is an historically specific techno-political and international diplomatic practice that is enabled and constrained by the human capacities for surveillance and destruction. As the institutional and technological context changes, so will the possibilities for nuclear disarmament.

Building the conceptual architecture that will help us move the debate about nuclear policy forward will require going beyond the current nuclear deterrence paradigm by bringing together a group of scholars that are working on ideas that are usually considered too strange or radical to be part of the mainstream. In other words, this kind of work needs an institutional home for policy research akin to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (another of William Perry’s visionary innovations), or similar to the one that RAND provided for the development of the deterrence paradigm. These are institutional spaces that exhibit a commitment to critical inquiry and interdisciplinary research, accept a high rate of failure, and do not strangle nascent research programs by sacrificing conceptual innovation in favor of short-term policy relevance. There are institutional spaces that and funding programs exhibit some of these aspects, promoting and developing those programs, even in an era of budget austerity, should be a component of the US nuclear security policy.


[1] For instance, these are the types of questions that are being debated at the annual Deterrence Symposiums hosted by STRATCOM: This trend is also reflected in and reinforced by the Obama administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report. What the report makes clear is that policymakers still consider nuclear deterrence a key element of US national security, but there is an overwhelming sense that moving beyond a Cold War mindset is necessary for the US to maintain its national security. These are also the issue areas the Department of Defense is funding for social scientific study through their Minerva Initiative:

[2] Fred M. Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).

[3] Philip Taubman, The Parnership (New York: Harper Collins, 2012).

[4] George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jan 4, 2007. pg. A.15

[5] Marc Trachtenberg, History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 152.

[6] Bernard Brodie, The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order, ed.  (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946).


Thank G-d for G–gle

In the late 1940s and early 1950s policy makers in the United States faced a dilemma. On the one hand, there were many reasons that a military strategy of employing nuclear weapons was not acceptable in the long term, including the possibility of nuclear retaliation from the Soviets. On the other hand, complete nuclear disarmament would have meant giving up the military advantage of being able to inflict large-scale destruction at a time when the Soviet Union posed an ever-greater conventional and nuclear threat. Unless the international community could cooperate to eliminate nuclear weapons, the United States would have to find a military justification for possessing nuclear weapons, but it would have to be a justification that could preclude their detonation. Deterrence provided the solution.

Today we take for granted that ‘nuclear deterrence’ can stand alone as a phrase in a one-page policy document and there can be a reasonable expectation that decision makers will understand that it refers to the manipulation of nuclear threats to ensure that the costs to an adversary of military aggression will outweigh the benefits. Yet, when Bernard Brodie first proposed the ideas that are routinely accepted today as the foundation of deterrence theory, whether and how nuclear deterrence would work was not at all clear. The idea that the US would produce an entire category of weapons for the sole purpose of preventing rather than waging war was considered strange to the point of being absurd—especially given the astronomical social, environmental and military costs that would be associated with a policy failure resulting in all-out nuclear war. At the time, Brodie was as likely to be met with confusion, skepticism or outright rejection as acceptance.[1]

Although deterring crime or aggression is a human behavior that transcends epochs,[2] ‘deterrence’ as an overarching military strategy is a product of the bipolar confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that developed hand in hand with nuclear technology. It has become such a dependable feature of US national security culture that it seems natural, but there could come a time when deterrence becomes strange again to the point of seeming absurd.

This is a claim that I make repeatedly in my work, but showing evidence of its truth has proven difficult…until now. Thank G-d for g–gle. Below are two Google Ngrams. The first shows that the terms “deterrence” (in blue) and “nuclear age” (in red) both appear in written English with enough frequency to be significant in the early 1950’s (the US tested its first thermonuclear weapon in 1952).


Although there is a lot more variation in the use of the word deterrence than in the term nuclear age, they both show peaks during the tensest periods of the Cold War (the early 60’s and late 80’s).

The second Ngram image maps the frequency of deterrence (in blue) vs. deter (in red). Deterrence is an end; it is something we achieve, where as “deter” is a means; it is something we do. The use of the word “deter” declines gradually across most of the 19th century, while “deterrence” appears for the first time in the 20th century, spiking at the height of the Cold War.


I dug into the data a little to see what kinds of texts contain these words. “Deter” appears frequently in religious texts–apparently, in the 19th century there were a lot of people making a concerted effort to deter sinners and in the early 20th century that became less of a concern. “Deterrence” first appearances in legal texts in conjunction with the term punishment. I tried to locate the very first use of the word deterrence in a text about atomic bombs. What I found was that Google occasionally mistakes other words for the word deterrence. For instance, in The Absolute Weapon, published in 1946, Arnold Wolfers uses the term “determent,” by which he means what we call “deterrence” today. Goolge also makes mistakes attributing years to texts. On more than one occasion, when I actually laid my eyes on the text itself the copyright dated it much later than what was listed in Google. I am still working on getting a hard copy of a RAND paper from 1946 that uses the term “deterrence” repeatedly, but I suspect that it may be a false lead. Unearthing the answer will require actually visiting a library or going into a archive rather than sitting back and playing arm-chair historian (aka political scientist). Nevertheless, Ngram is an amazing tool for aggregate analysis and demonstrates how contingent deterrence is–not only as a military strategy, but as an idea.

[1] Bernard Brodie first articulated these ideas as early as autumn 1945. His oft-quoted formulation dates from 1946 when he wrote: “Thus, the first and most vital step in any American security program for the age of atomic bombs is to take measures to guarantee to ourselves in case of attack the possibility of retaliation in kind. The writer in making that statement is not for the moment concerned about who will win the next war in which atomic bombs are used. Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them,” which is taken from Frederick Dunn, Bernard Brodie, Arnold Wolfers, Percy E. Corbett, and William T. R. Fox, eds. The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946) 76; see also Bernard Brodie, “The Development of Nuclear Strategy,” International Security 4 (1978): 65. For an intellectual history of the ideas and biographies of the individuals who developed them see: Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 1991; Steiner, Barry H. Bernard Brodie and the Foundations of American Nuclear Strategy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.Robert Ayson, Thomas Schelling and the Nuclear Age: Strategy as Social Science (London: F. Cass, 2004); Ghamari-Tabrizi, Sharon. The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005.

[2] The standard claim to the transcendental status of ‘deterrence’ cites the axiom ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war) attributed to a Roman military writer circa 390 B.C. However, military deterrence as we understand it today is an empirical reality particular to our modern technological environment. Michael Quinlan, Thinking about Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems, Prospects (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Kindle edition, location 336 of 2422, 13%. See also George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, and James E. Goodby, Deterrence: Its Past and Future (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press), 2010.