Looking Back: Carter's 1978 Declaration and the Significance of Security Assurances

Publication Date: 
October 2008
Description: 

Arms Control Today

Project: 
The Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security Program
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds

In terms of operational practice as distinct from political rhetoric, institutionalized security policy in the United States is based on two presumptions: that imperial aggression is the principal form of threat and that the countervailing threat of deterrent retaliation is the most decisive method of protection. This formulation was established during the Cold War and has been retained in its aftermath. Because no country can plausibly threaten immediate imperial aggression against U.S. territory, the formulation is now justified as a hedge against the rise of an unnamed peer competitor. For many other countries, however, the United States itself is the most credible potential embodiment of such a threat.