Gaming America’s Strategic Deterrence Futures
Since 9/11, America’s national security-focused agencies and departments — Defense, State, Energy, and the Intelligence Community — all naturally resorted to classifying more and more information to protect the nation. After a decade, this bureaucratic reflex, unfortunately, has become self-defeating: Those in the system believe they have a duty to discuss national security matters only in the most general terms, while those without access to classified information either are unable to conduct proper oversight.
This penchant for increased secrecy also has been occasioned by an increasing tendency to treat military threats that might lead to wars quite separately from diplomatic crises that might lead to conflict. The first is handled by war planners; the second by diplomats. Yet, the two problem sets are tightly related. As such, war planners and diplomats and staff that support them should be far more engaged in each other’s business.
To the extent they are not, the sustainability and soundness of national security policies suffer. One can see the derogatory effects of these trends most clearly in the public articulation of U.S. national security policies in three areas that are of increasing importance to preventing further nuclear proliferation and deterring future nuclear wars, which include:
- deterring a major war with China, which increasingly might go nuclear and whose behavior encourages Tokyo and Seoul to ponder going nuclear and India to acquire more nuclear weapons;
- discouraging further violations and withdrawals from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements (i.e., preventing more saber rattling nuclear North Koreas); and
- clarifying what America’s space policy should be to deter conventional and nuclear wars and to reassure America’s allies that America can and will defend them.
Unlike other emerging technical and highly classified security challenges — e.g., artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, hypersonics, etc. — effective policies regarding these three issues require compelling public policy narratives that are widely understood among those with access to the most secret information as well as those without. The development of such narratives, in turn, requires more, not less open discussion and analysis.
NPEC’s project is designed to facilitate the development of such narratives by bringing staff and officials that hold high-level clearances together with Hill staff and other experts who lack them to participate in private as well as open unclassified forums, classes, war games, and diplomatic policy simulations. These NPEC affairs would focus on the three issues noted above, all of which will be increasingly difficult to ignore.