I have been reading on nuclear deterrence, a RAND report by T. Delpech. I am no expert, at all, in this literature, but I think Delpech is quite good in bringing out all the issues. I will have to get some expert judgments.
In any case, she reminded me that the literature on nuclear deterrence has always paid a good deal of attention to uncertainty, about what your opponent might do. Namely,
...uncertainty may contribute to a deterrent effect (T. Schelling), your not knowing what they will do making you more prudential. Or, in contrast, your knowing just what your opponent will do (H. Kahn), will contribute to deterrence by, again, making you more prudent. If we are in a piracy regime (as described by T. Delpech), our opponents may well gamble more, be less willing to follow conventional norms, and so not only increase uncertainty, but make it much harder to figure out what they might do. (my paraphrase)
In the warrior case, on the ground (vs. the suits and the uniforms, usually the subject of deterrence discussion), the idea that one's opponent might be a "pirate" (one who violates all the norms, tends to take changes that are quite speculative or ideologically driven), I wonder how to think about this.
Delpech portrays China or North Korea as being piratical, the Chinese especially having a recent tradition from the effort to establish PRC. In effect, they are the wildest least predictable on the block. How do warriors on the ground handle this possibility?
I have been reading more about the conflict of the Japanese Navy and Army between the two world wars, and how that led to remarkable chancy behavior, with little checks on wildness--a bureaucratic battle with enormous consequences. Also, about Hitler's ambitions being much above his capabilities, the argument being that appeasement in 1938 was the wrong move--rather resisting him then might have had the effect of slowing him down, perhaps permanently. In each case, Japan and Nazi Germany, they were punching above their line, so to speak--yet they could not stop themselves, leading to enormous damage to themselves (and the world, too).