National Security and Insecurity

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Deterrence is based on some key assumptions, most importantly, actors are rational. From there it is a cost-benefit calculation—an attack is deterred if the costs outweigh the benefits. States determine the capability of the state actor, the credibility of the threat, communications and calculation—the 4 C’s. What makes a deterrent capability credible? In our age of nuclear weapons, France and Great Britain decided to attain their own nuclear arsenals based on doubts about the United States extending its nuclear umbrella to defend them if they are attacked. They questioned whether the United States would willingly invite an attack on itself by coming to the defense of France or Great Britain? A new concern for deterrence is the rogue state/non-state actors, or nuclear aspirants gaining a credible nuclear capability.

North Korea Parades Nuclear Missile

North Korea Parades Nuclear Missile

Former President George W. Bush confirmed North Korea’s nuclear strike capability in his book, ‘Decision Points:”

“Kim also maintained a nuclear weapons program and a ballistic missile capability that threatened two U.S. allies – South Korea and Japan- and could potentially reach America’s west coast” (page 423)

In response, the West Coast defense system consists of 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors on the West Coast deployed by the Obama Administration adding to the 30 interceptors deployed since 2004 in California and Alaska. These missiles are capable of shooting down incoming missiles in space.

North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) stated officially in 2009 it developed a nuclear weapon, and stockpiled a small number of nuclear weapons.

NOTE: North Korea may also have a chemical and/or biological weapons capability.


1. Review the “Report to Congress on Military and Security Development Involving the DPRK.”

2. If deterrence worked during the Cold War, could it now work against a new nuclear state like North Korea? In the cost-benefit calculation, do the costs of a U.S. deterrent strategy outweigh the benefits of North Korea‘s nuclear strike capability?

3. Use information from your text to address the “Security Dilemma” states like North Korea face as they build arms to become more secure, and Henry Kissinger’s “Absolute Security Theory” – “Absolute security for one power means absolute insecurity for all others.”

4. Write a one-page response focusing on Deterring North Korea.

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