Why should conventional deterrence need re-examination? The approach of the end of a decade traditionally provides an overwhelming temptation of this nature. There is an implicit assumption that with the change of calendar some kind of climacteric will be reached, and that policies which have been found perfectly satisfactory hitherto will suddenly require radical readjustment. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Royal United Services Institute selected as its main theme for the 1986–7 season of lectures the title ‘Conventional Deterrence: Into the 1990s’. The cynic might be tempted to enquire what is so likely to be new and different from deterrence in the 1980s: is there any point in reploughing this well-tilled field in pursuit of an ever diminishing crop of new ideas?
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