Nuclear deterrence could restrain N. Korea, Iran

Updated 11:39 AM EDT, Tue April 30, 2013

Story highlights

Barry Blechman: U.S. never attacked another nation to stop it from becoming a nuclear power

Blechman: Why does it seem that the U.S. has a different strategy toward North Korea and Iran?

He says if deterrence theory worked in the Cold War

Bleckman: Iran's and North Korea's supreme leaders will be deterred, just like the Soviet leaders

Editor’s Note: Barry M. Blechman is co-founder of the Stimson Center, a think tank that promotes international peace and security.

(CNN) —  

Throughout the Cold War, the United States relied on the theory of deterrence for protection against nuclear attack. American leaders believed that so long as the U.S. maintained nuclear forces able to survive a first-strike and retaliate with devastating power against the Soviet Union, Kremlin leaders would be deterred from mounting a nuclear attack.

In retrospect, this arms race was incredibly costly, wasteful and dangerous. If war had started, the two superpowers would have destroyed each other and probably all of humanity.

But deterrence did work. And the U.S. never attacked the Soviet Union or any other nation to stop them from becoming nuclear powers.

So, why does it seem that the U.S. has a different strategy toward North Korea and Iran?

In response to North Korea’s recent threats to launch nuclear attacks, the U.S. announced it would bolster missile defenses in Alaska and California and speed the deployment of missile interceptors to Guam. With respect to Iran, President Obama said as recently as March 20: “We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining the world’s worst weapons.”