Projects


Deterring Complex Threats: The Effects of Asymmetry, Interdependence, and Multi-polarity on International Strategy

Principal Investigator: Dr. Erik Gartzke

Co-PI: Dr. Jon R. Lindsay

Sponsors:

  • Department of Defense

  • Minerva Initiative

  • Office of Naval Research

Award Number: N00014-14-0071

Abstract: Deterrence as a strategy and doctrine was convincingly and effectively deployed by the United States during the Cold War. Today, however, states face a widening range of destabilizing threats, in particular to space, cyberspace, financial, and other critical infrastructure. The interconnectedness of the contemporary world creates many new opportunities for state or non-state adversaries to seek asymmetric advantages (i.e., low-cost actions which undermine high-cost sources of power) against advanced industrial countries, including the United States. Technological and political complexity generates tremendous uncertainty, undermining in one stroke both the simple logic of the basic deterrence frameworks applied in the previous era and also the credibility of such efforts. “Cross domain deterrence”

(CDD) seeks to counter threats in one arena (such as space or cyber warfare) by relying on different types of capabilities (such as sea power or nuclear weapons, or even non-military tools such as access to markets or normative regimes) where deterrence may be more effective. The increasing complexity of

CDD poses both opportunities and challenges that necessitate, and will benefit from, a major evolution in thinking (and practice) about how deterrence operates.

The University of California Center for Peace and security (cPASS), in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), aims to develop analytical clarity concerning the effects of increasing technological and political complexity on the logic of CDD. We combat the complexity of CDD by breaking the concept into three complementary characteristics of the global political system: asymmetryinterdependence, and multipolarity. These interrelated concepts are strongly affected but not uniquely determined by emerging technologies. They build on one another in a modular yet cumulative process which will enable us to systematically explore key questions such as: How does asymmetric access to nuclear weapons, counterspace operations, and cyberspace capabilities shape threats and the use of force? How does politicaleconomic and technological interdependence affect strategic calculations and a willingness to fight or compromise? How does the proliferation of diverse types of weapons to a growing number of actors shape the nature of deterrence or alter its scope? Answers to these questions promise to advance the social science of national security and inform policy for tackling emerging cross-domain threats.

An Empirical Approach to Cross-Domain Deterrence

Principal Investigator: Dr. Erik Gartzke

Co-PI: Dr. Jon R. Lindsay

Sponsors:

  • Department of Defense

  • Minerva Initiative

  • Office of Naval Research

Award Number: N00014-15-1-2792

Abstract: The rise of new technological capabilities and concerns involving space and cyberspace create a pressing need for a better understanding of how conflict and cooperation are conducted across different domains, and where crossing domains creates special challenges and opportunities for deterrence, compellence and other forms of influence. We have now encountered a number of nuanced cases of complex deterrence involving many means, so many that a purely qualitative approach to empirical analysis is no longer the only approach to historical data.

 

We have identified existing datasets that we are enhancing to incorporate information about capabilities and interaction in and across various domains.  Conducting innovative tests of cross-domain crises and conflict also necessitates the development of new variables to capture the increase in complexity associated with technological innovation. Finally, we have a new measure of how uncertainty about a state’s capabilities varies across domains. These data promise new insights into the way cross-domain deterrence operates in the real world.

Political Consequences of Military Automation

A variety of innovative technologies are changing the nature of warfare. These technologies have contrasting effects, depending on how they interact with the political processes of states. Technologies that supplant human labor in battle—such as UAVs (drones) and ground combat robots—lower military labor costs and limit political risks associated with friendly casualties. The tendency should thus be for military automation to increase the scope of threats or uses of force by the most advanced economies, geographically and in terms of the issues in dispute. These and other insights have been developed in a theoretical paper and in a quantitative study of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

Technologies that do not replace humans on the battlefield, but which instead make defense more effective should have the opposite effect, reducing aggression by other states or actors against the technological power. In two separate studies—one on the effects of nuclear weapons platform diversification on deterrence success and a second addressing the impact of military surveillance satellites—these technologies enhance deterrence or defense, making aggression less effective and lowering the costs/risks associated with national security. These capabilities also substitute to some extent for a forward force posture, reducing the need for costly foreign basing.

Effects of the Volunteer Force

Controversy in the aftermath of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War led to a national reassessment of the basis for recruitment of military labor. Beginning in the 1970s, a series of countries repealed conscription in favor of a volunteer force. Critics have argued that a volunteer force provides the executive with greater discretion in the use military power. Nevertheless, previous systematic studies of this relationship identified the opposite relationship; volunteers appeared to make countries less warlike, not more. A new analysis of military recruitment reconciles this apparent contradiction by noting that veto players serve contrasting functions in democracies and autocracies. In democracies, voluntary service makes the use of force more likely, while conscription achieves a similar effect in autocratic states. The effect is strong and robust to alternative explanations. Future work will extend the analysis to additional aspects of civil-military affairs in free societies.

Military Posture

The United States faces key questions of foreign policy efficacy and tradeoffs between its national priorities in a period of relative decline. How (and where) can the United States deploy its military capabilities to best achieve security and maintain influence, while minimizing costs? A series of cPASS studies explore these questions. First, we examine the classical conception of military deployments as “tripwires,” showing that a more accurate empirical description involves signals of U.S. priorities and resolve. It is not how many forces are deployed to an ally that matters for general deterrence success, but what proportion of available U.S. forces are deployed in a given country. The finding also suggests that relative U.S. decline need not undermine global stability, provided that America telegraphs its priorities, implying a policy of restraint combined with a limited forward force posture.

The question of whether forward force postures stabilize or inflame is examined in the next study. Work by cPASS finds that the proportion of U.S. forces deployed to an ally significantly correlates with reduced challenges by an ally’s rivals. Finally, we critically examine the effect of presence versus offshore balancing. It would be appealing to be able to protect security partners from abroad. However, we find that forces near, but not on the territory of an ally actually undermine stability. It turns out that “being there” makes a difference for deterrence success.

Military Platforms and Domains

Attributes of military capabilities affect the kinds of outcomes societies can seek, and obtain, in world affairs. Characteristics of weapons that make them more effective on the battlefield may also weaken their ability to convey intent. Navies, for example, are highly mobile and effective at concentrating firepower. Naval surface platforms wield considerable influence by “showing the flag,” while other platforms, such as submarines, are characterized by stealth rather than visibility. Work by cPASS explores the ways in which military power shapes the kind of outcomes nations can expect from given force structure decisions.  Analyzing variation in the domains and platforms used during and prior to warfare over the past two centuries can shed valuable insight regarding what domains and platforms succeed in achieving national objectives and during what circumstance. This project is unique in that it explores platform and domain capabilities by all countries that have been involved in international crises.

Book Project: The Futility of War

Economic development and the globalization of commercial ties have fundamentally changed the nature of international affairs. In places, this has meant a cessation of the motives for war. More broadly, modernity has shifted the ends to which nations apply military power. Sophisticated, powerful states expend an increasing effort on shaping the terms under which states interact, while showing little interest in exercising expensive military power to expropriate relatively cheap assets such as territory or natural resources. This shift away from using military force to appropriate tangible goods and toward coercing compliance with preferred international policies will be reinforced by new technological change. I lay out a theory of conflict and peace tied to modernity, demonstrate implications using statistical and other data-driven approaches and then leverage the theory to help explain likely future developments tied to military automation and cyberwar.