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Prevailing Under the Nuclear Shadow: A New Framework for US Escalation Management

Madison A. Estes
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CNA PROPOSED FRAMEWORK FOR NUCLEAR ESCALATION MANAGEMENT

The proposed framework outlined in this report consists of three foundational elements for developing tailored escalation management strategies.

Objectives of US escalation management

The first foundational element of the framework consists of the objectives of US escalation management. Irrespective of the adversary or scenario, in any confrontation in which the US would be seeking to manage potential escalation, there would be four objectives:

1. Limit the scope and intensity of a conflict.

2. Achieve war and overall political aims at the lowest possible cost. 

3. Assure US allies and deter attacks on their vital interests.

4. Facilitate the de-escalation, and ultimately the termination, of the conflict.

Tools of US escalation management

The second foundational element of the framework consists of the tools of escalation management. US decision-makers can leverage these four basic tools to achieve their goals, irrespective of the adversary or scenario. They are:

1. Deterrence operations.

2. Employment of military force.

3. Messaging.

4. Off-ramps/palatable alternative outcomes. Although these tools and objectives, and their prioritization, will likely change based on circumstance, understanding them is a prerequisite for successful escalation management.

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DISTRIBUTION A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.

Details

  • Pages: 62
  • Document Number: CRM-2020-U-027973-Final
  • Publication Date: 9/1/2020
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