Deterrence: From Cold War to Long War: Lessons from Six Decades of RAND Research

  • Published

Deterrence: From Cold War to Long War: Lessons from Six Decades of RAND Research by Austin Long. RAND, 2008, 122 pp.

Deterrence: From Cold War to Long War offers a quick assessment of RAND research on America’s development of deterrence theory from the previous 60 years. The author, Austin Long, is an assistant professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. A former associate political scientist for RAND, he holds a BS from Georgia Tech and a PhD from MIT. His research focuses on security studies with a specialization in low-intensity conflict, intelligence, civil-military relations, and military organizations and operations. Additionally, Long has published RAND studies on the management of defense transformation and on the military in counterinsurgency. Well informed about the subject at hand, he writes about it clearly and concisely.

We learn that RAND’s past research on deterrence remains relevant as America faces a new threat—not the Soviet Union, as was the case during the Cold War, but various nonstate terrorist actors in today’s Long War. According to Long, “Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, the huge body of deterrence research produced by RAND provides an excellent starting point for further study and strategic planning” (p. 85). He then demonstrates the congruence of that research with the development of current defense strategy.

A quick read, the monograph introduces readers to the material on deterrence theory available from RAND by following a chronological listing and description of the various theories used by the United States during the Cold War. It examines the key designers of those theories and, to a lesser degree, the circumstances that attended their development and implementation. Not a weighty tome, the study does not fully investigate, dissect, and/or evaluate the effectiveness or worthiness of the theories. Rather, the reader must analyze their worth and determine whether their application proved successful in the larger scheme of world peace and the furtherance of America’s strategic security objectives.

Readers will find the richly documented Deterrence: From Cold War to Long War useful as a means of gaining insight into the nuances of deterrence theory and its place within the structure of America’s evolving national security strategy throughout the Cold War. I recommend it not only to individuals interested in strategy formulation but also to armchair historians searching for additional information on this subject.

Col Joseph J. McCue, USAF, Retired


"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."