Over the centuries, in times of war or threatened war, deterrence has frequently been used to avoid direct hand-to-hand or nation-to-nation combat. The most memorable recent use of deterrence as a weapon was the sixties and seventies “Cold War” between America and the Soviet Union, with both sides pointing huge arsenals of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles at each other. Neither side dared fire the first ICBM, because the calculated ultimate result of a long-range nuclear exchange would have been the total destruction of both sides; a process known in western military circles as MAD [Mutually Assured Destruction].
Deterrence has also been used on a “proxy” basis by the superpowers, when smaller states have threatened each other in such a way that other countries would inevitably have been drawn into the conflict. One such example was Israel’s attack on the Arab nations, when air reconnaissance photographs proved the Israelis were arming their nuclear intermediate-range missiles, in order to destroy the civilian populations of “enemy” capital cities in the Middle East. Realizing the imminent danger of an Arab holocaust, the Russians very openly armed two “Scud C” missile batteries in Egypt with nuclear warheads, then casually aimed them directly at Tel Aviv. Mutual destruction was thus assured by the superpower umpire, and deterrence won the day.
Nuclear weapons were not the long-term deterrence solution however, because in the event of a madman calling someone’s bluff, a nuclear weapon would actually have to be fired with unpredictable results. What was needed was a far more subtle system, one that could be used openly in such a way that the public would not recognize it as a weapon system at all. Most obvious was the serious manipulation of weather patterns on the “aggressor’s ” home turf, thereby forcing him to back off ,or face military and economic ruin.