Deterrence and secrecy

The Cold War was a somewhat funny time; the involved powers were not so much preparing for the next war, but instead focused on deterring the other bloc.

It's a bit confusing that despite this official focus on deterrence, they limited this in practice to quantities. The strength in terms of quality - especially in terms of innovation - was not as visible. Technological advances were often guarded as secrecy (especially by the Warsaw Pact). To keep details secret made sense - it delayed the introduction of effective countermeasures. To keep capabilities secret made less sense. You cannot deter with a capability if the others don't know (or at least suspect) about it. You didn't want to develop a military capability to use it in WW III because you didn't want to experience a WW III.

Furthermore, spying was so intense that many secrecy efforts only protected the secrets from leaking to the own citizens and irrelevant small powers because the opposing bloc had often learned the secret by spying.

The international security environment has changed since the early 90's, and a focus on deterrence is not necessary anymore because war among equals at high level have become unlikely due to a lack of real conflicts.

One implication is that it makes more sense than during the Cold War to keep capabilities secret.

The shift away from deterrence among leading powers to small wars had probably motivated a shift towards more secrecy about capabilities, and consequently lead to a less well-informed public.
It's just one motivation to shift the behavior to more secrecy, maybe this factor was over-ridden by other factors (like the internet).

The black budgets are large, though - and the gap between what appears to be feasible and what's being officially done seems to be quite large.

Sven Ortmann

1 comment:

  1. "All warfare is based on deception." : Sun Tzu