Richard K. Betts

(Richard Kevin Betts)

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Richard Kevin Betts is the Arnold Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies in the Department of Political Science, the director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies, and the director of the International Security Policy Program in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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… the independent Afghan government that followed the ouster of the Taliban descended into catastrophic corruption, incompetence, and double-dealing, and many Afghans blamed America intervention for the mess in their country. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
… war by its nature entails terrible injustice to many individuals and that acceptance of that injustice as the lesser evil is implicit in any decision to send the military into combat. War & Peace
Americans loathe anything that reeks of appeasement. Public Opinion & Polling ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Armchair generals assume that nations decide on their foreign policy objectives and then subordinate everything else to achieving them. Life is more complicated. Threats, opportunities and risks are always uncertain, but the economic costs of maximum preparedness are definite. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Attempts to run the world generate resistance. United Nations
Deterrence is … a weak tool in the increasingly important realm of cyberspace, where it can be extremely difficult to be absolutely sure of an attacker’s identity. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Deterrence is a strategy for combining two competing goals: Countering an enemy and avoiding war. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Even when deterrence is appropriate, it might not work—for example against an enemy who is suicidal or invulnerable to a counterattack. Terrorism
Fighting terrorists does not require half a trillion dollars worth of conventional and nuclear forces. Terrorism
Force undertaken as police action that turns into a real war is a distasteful shock to the politicians who expect that force can be used without injustice. War & Peace ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Hawks usually care about benefits; doves most about costs. Neither benefits or costs however are easily estimated in advance. Liberals & Conservatives
If the Cold War is really over, and the West really won, then continuing implicit deterrence does less to protest against a negligible threat from Russia than to feed suspicions that aggravate political friction. In contrast to during the Cold War, it is now hard to make the case that Russia is more a threat to NATO than the reverse. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Instead of planning to deter would-be [nuclear] proliferators, U. S. policy makers have developed a preference for preventative war, They now seem to feel that deterrence is too weak to deal with radical regimes, forgetting that the precise purpose of deterrence is to counter dangerous enemies, not cautious ones. Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy ;Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Organizational changes to fix the problems usually create new vulnerabilities in the process of fixing the old ones. Management & Managing Government
People should think of the war on terror as being like the war on crime--- a struggle in which success is measured not by final victory but by declines in incidence and seriousness of attacks. Terrorism
Reducing future risks requires paying some immediate costs. Defense & National Security
Russia is now a lonely fraction of what the old Warsaw pact was. It not only has lost its old Eastern European allies; those allies are now arrayed on the other side, as members of NATO Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic used by an enemy in pursuit of a political objective. There will be no final victory against terrorism, but there may be victories that are close enough to final against particular political groups that use terror tactics. Terrorism
The military capabilities of the United States need to be kept comfortably superior to those of present and potential enemies. But they should be measured relatively, against those enemies’ capabilities, and not against the limit of what is technologically possible or based on some vague urge to have more. Defense & National Security
There is no sure solution to some dangers. Policy & Policy Making ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
To impose justice, stability, and cooperation on oppressed or ungoverned nations is usually a tall order. It is hardly ever done cheaply, especially against nationalist resistance States. Nations & Nationhood
To Moscow, it must seem that the Cold War is only half over, since the West’s deterrence posture, although muted, lives on. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Unfortunately, the historical record of failure to prevent strategic surprises is overwhelming. In conventional warfare, victims usually misread the evidence or miscalculate their responses, and they can suffer surprise even when their intelligence collection systems and defensive preparations are impressive. Intelligence, Spying, Espionage & Covert Operations
War … inevitably hurts the innocent …. Deliberate targeting of civilians may be prevented, but the nature of real war is that accidental collateral damage is a regular cost of doing business. Accidental death and destruction can be reduced by improved technology or restraints on strategy, but it cannot yet be eliminated in any war of consequences. War & Peace
Wars the United States starts do not necessarily end when and how it wants them to. War & Peace

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