International political outcomes are deeply shaped by the balance of power, but some military capabilities rely on secrecy in order to be effective (e.g. certain forms of cyber, signals intelligence, space systems, electronic warfare, stealth or counterstealth). These “clandestine capabilities” pose problems for deterrence. If clandestine nuclear capabilities are revealed, adversaries may be able to take steps that attenuate the advantages they are supposed to provide. On the other hand, if these capabilities are not revealed then deterrence failures may be inevitable - the Dr. Strangelove Doomsday Machine problem.
In this article, we outline a conceptual and propositional inventory about the status of clandestine capabilities in world politics, focusing our analysis on nuclear forces. After outlining the importance of clandestine capabilities for policy and theory, we provide a typology of clandestine capabilities, using it to argue that military power is increasingly dependent upon secrecy. We then discuss the conditions under which clandestine nuclear capabilities might provide leverage and the mechanisms by which they can do so. The resulting propositional inventory is fleshed out with a diverse array of empirical examples but with a focus on strategic anti-submarine warfare in the Cold War.
Austin Long is an Associate Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and a Member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Columbia University. He is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Austin received his B.S. from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) sponsored this seminar entitled "Clandestine Capabilities and Deterrence in World Politics" on Aug. 8 2016, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Austin Long is an Associate Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and a Member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Columbia University.