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ISBN: 978-0-7456-3113-4
160 pages
May 2004, Polity
Deterrence (0745631134) cover image


As a concept, deterrence has launched a thousand books and articles. It has dominated Western strategic thinking for more than four decades. In this important and groundbreaking new book, Lawrence Freedman develops a distinctive approach to the evaluation of deterrence as both a state of mind and a strategic option. This approach is applied to post-cold war crisis management, and the utility and relevance of the concept is addressed in relation to US strategic practice post-9/11, particularly in the light of the apparent preference of the Bush Administration for the alternative concept of pre-emption.

The study of deterrence has been hampered by the weight of the intellectual baggage accumulated since the end of the Second World War. Exaggerated notions of what deterrence might achieve were developed, only to be to knocked down by academic critique. In this book, Freedman charts the evolution of the contemporary concept of deterrence, and discusses whether - and how - it still has relevance in today's world. He considers constructivist as well as realist approaches and draws on criminological as well as strategic studies literature to develop a concept of a norms-based, as opposed to an interest-based, deterrence. This book will be essential reading for students of politics and international relations as well as all those interested in contemporary strategic thought.

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Table of Contents

1. The rise and fall of deterrence 6

2. The meaning of deterrence 26

3. Deterrence in practice 43

4. Norms and criminality 60

5. After the Cold War 75

6. From deterrence to pre-emption 84

7. Strategic coercion 109

8. The future of deterrence 116

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Author Information

Lawrence Freedman is Professor of War Studies and Vice-Principal (Research) of King's College London
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Lawrence Freedman is one of the best-known and most respected experts on nuclear strategy and contemporary warfare;
  • this book provides a succinct overview of the evolution of the concept of deterrence and distils Freedman's current thinking;
  • presents a new approach to the study of deterrence and argues for the relevance of the concept to current international crises;
  • includes discussion of the war against terrorism, the Middle East and the Iraq crisis.
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