Applying recent advances in game theory to the study of nuclear deterrence, Robert Powell examines the foundations of deterrence theory. Game-theoretic analysis allows the author to explore some of the most complex and problematic issues in deterrence theory, including the effects of first-strike advantages, limited retaliation, and the number of nuclear powers in the international system on the dynamics of escalation. With the formalizations he develops, the author is able to demonstrate the fundamental similarity of the two seemingly disparate deterrrent strategies that have evolved in response to the nuclear revolution and the condition of mutually assured destruction: the strategy of limited retaliation. The author argues that the logic underlying both strategies centers on a search for ways to make the use of force or the threat of its use credible when any use of force might escalate to mutual devastation. By providing an analytic framework in which questions about nuclear deterrence may be asked more precisely and the consequences of different strategies explored more extensively, the book provides a foundation for further advances in deterrence theory.
An appendix offers the nonspecialist an introduction to game theory and to the models the author develops in the text.
"...the most serious and most productive application of the formal game theory to the study of deterrence and the outbreak of war...this is the first book-length treatment I have seen that makes successful use of game theory in exploring the most elusive aspects of this subject." Thomas Schelling, author of The Strategy of Conflict