The threat of countermeasures worked when the United States faced off with the Soviets—top, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev—and nuclear destruction was the risk. But in a multipolar world, where regional conflicts likely will be fought with conventional weapons and decision makers—such as Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aideed (center) and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (bottom)—are less predictable, we need a new concept of deterrence.
Military forces are supposed to fight and win wars, but an equally important function is to prevent wars. Increasingly, it has been realized that these functions are not separate and distinguishable. The demonstrable ability to defeat opponents early, to convince them that they have no chance to attain their goals through aggressive use of military forces, is the primary mode of deterrence.