Volume LII- Number 2

Alec Bania

Abstract: Missile defense has long been a contentious topic among nuclear strategists and policy makers. Presently, the topic has returned to the policy forefront, as nuclear issues become increasingly relevant to U.S. foreign policy. Nonetheless, there are relatively few rigorous theoretical frameworks analyzing the implications of missile defense for deterrence theory situated in a post-Cold War context. In this paper, I extend existing relevant theoretical perspectives within the framework of a brinkmanship-based model of deterrence to consider the uncertain effectiveness of such systems, connections between missile defense and proliferation, and distinctions between national and area defense. I conclude that national defenses will tend to destabilize, prove counterproductive to U.S. interests, and have few counterproliferation benefits, while area defenses have the potential to be stabilizing, serve U.S. interests in a variety of respects, and have meaningful counterproliferation benefits. Finally, I place this analysis in the context of current policy issues and discusses implications for future U.S.  policy.

Keywords: Nuclear weapons, missile defense, game theory, US security policy, security, counterproliferation, nuclear strategy

About the Author: Alec Bania is currently a senior at Brown University, pursuing concentrations in Political Science and Economics, as well as a visiting student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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