Jeffrey LewisDeterrence: Past, Present, & Future

During a recent conference, where I was subjected to what I considered some knuckle-dragging commentary on deterrence, I created a fictional character that I called The Cold War Troglodyte, pictured above.

Well, turn-about is fair play. I will be giving my own talk at which you can draw silly pictures of me and my ideas — based on my review essay for the Bulletin on minimum deterrence.

I will be at the Cannon House Office Building Monday. Here are the details:

The RAND Corporation invites you to attend a panel discussion

Deterrence: Past, Present, & Future

Austin Long, RAND Corporation
Jeffrey Lewis, New America Foundation
David Mosher, RAND Corporation
Moderated by David Ochmanek, RAND Corporation Monday,

November 17, 2008
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 210
Cannon House Office Building
Light refreshments will be provided

As we transition towards a new administration with new and unique challenges the issue of deterrence, specifically nuclear deterrence, is certain to be one of the topics of discussion. The nature of the challenges posed by nuclear-armed adversaries has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War and the prospect is for continued change should countries such as North Korea and Iran succeed in acquiring deliverable nuclear arsenals. In light of these shifts, traditional approaches to preventing nuclear use will be found wanting: New approaches are called for and with them will come the need for new military capabilities and postures. This panel will explore several issues at the heart of this dynamic set of challenges. These include:

~Enduring roles for nuclear weapons and future needs for nuclear deterrence
~The desirability and feasibility of a transition to zero nuclear weapons
~Deterrence of non-state actors
~Challenges posed by nuclear-armed regional adversaries
~Options for a new round of arms control with Russia
~Conventional forces and deterrence
~Deterrence and constrained Defense budgets

Please register online or contact Kurt Card at kurt_card[at] or 703-413-1100 ext. 5259.


  1. yousaf (History)

    sounds like an excellent event — hope to make it!

    in the caricatured graph above, one could replace number of bombs w/ “reliability” — it is just as ridiculous an argument. the whole rrw debate turns on this.

    the deterrent value of massively destructive nuclear weapons is simply not proportional to reliability. hopefully you can touch on this in your presentation.

    I would venture that even a 25% reliable weapon will deter one’s adversaries as well as a 95% reliable one.

    more to the point: you don’t need to be telling your enemies that you are concerned about the reliability of your weapons. in any case, the warheads are 98% reliable and the nuclear components are fine for the next ~70 yrs.

    i think we need no more than 30 uranium weapons and should negotiate with chinese, russians and others for them to do the same. oh, and uranium weapons are REALLY reliable.

    I had sent in an LTE to the Boston Globe recently along just these lines.

  2. sek

    Any live feed or video/audio recording??

  3. Ward Wilson (History)

    Although the graph here is strikingly similar to one that I used in my talk on Wednesday, I’m quite confident that any similarity is purely coincidental. Most tellingly, Troglodyte Man has quite a bushy crop of hair on his head, whereas I (sigh) do not.

    I wish I could be there for Jeffrey’s talk.