Arms Control Today
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.