The Fragile Balance of Terror: Deterrence in the Nuclear Age | Rose McDermott, Amy Zegart

Thursday, February 2, 2023
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

  • Rose McDermott,
  • Amy Zegart

Seminar Recording

About the Event: 

In The Fragile Balance of Terror, the foremost experts on nuclear policy and strategy offer insight into an era rife with more nuclear powers. Some of these new powers suffer domestic instability, others are led by pathological personalist dictators, and many are situated in highly unstable regions of the world—a volatile mix of variables.

The increasing fragility of deterrence in the twenty-first century is created by a confluence of forces: military technologies that create vulnerable arsenals, a novel information ecosystem that rapidly transmits both information and misinformation, nuclear rivalries that include three or more nuclear powers, and dictatorial decision making that encourages rash choices. The nuclear threats posed by India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea are thus fraught with danger.

The Fragile Balance of Terror, edited by Vipin Narang and Scott D. Sagan, brings together a diverse collection of rigorous and creative scholars who analyze how the nuclear landscape is changing for the worse. Scholars, pundits, and policymakers who think that the spread of nuclear weapons can create stable forms of nuclear deterrence in the future will be forced to think again. The volume was produced under the auspices of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences project “Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age”, co-chaired by CISAC Director Scott D. Sagan.

About the Speakers:

Rose McDermott is the David and Mariana Fisher University Professor of International Relations at Brown University and a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She works in the areas of political psychology.  She received her Ph.D.(Political Science) and M.A. (Experimental Social Psychology) from Stanford University and has also taught at Cornell and UCSB.   She has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Women and Public Policy Program, all at Harvard University, and has been a fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences twice. She is the author of five books, a co-editor of two additional volumes, and author of over two hundred academic articles across a wide variety of disciplines encompassing topics such as American foreign and defense policy, experimentation, national security intelligence, gender, social identity, cybersecurity, emotion and decision-making, and the biological and genetic bases of political behavior.

Amy Zegart is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Professor of Political Science by courtesy at Stanford University. She is also the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Chair of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence and International Security Steering Committee, and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. She specializes in U.S. intelligence, cybersecurity, emerging technologies and national security, and global political risk management.

The author of five books, Zegart’s award-winning research includes the bestseller Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence (Princeton, 2022); Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations (Brookings, 2019), co-edited with Herb Lin; Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity (Twelve, 2018), co-authored with Condoleezza Rice; and the leading academic study of intelligence failures before 9/11 – Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton 2007).  Her op-eds and essays have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Politico, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Wired, and elsewhere. 

Zegart has been featured by the National Journal as one of the ten most influential experts in intelligence reform. She served on the Clinton administration’s National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy adviser to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. She has also testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and advises senior officials on intelligence, homeland security, and cybersecurity matters.

Previously, Zegart served as co-director of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, founding co-director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Program, and chief academic officer of the Hoover Institution. Before coming to Stanford, she was Professor of Public Policy at UCLA and a McKinsey & Company consultant.

She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, the American Political Science Association’s Leonard D. White Dissertation Prize, and research grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Hewlett Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Zegart received an A.B. in East Asian studies magna cum laude from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. She serves on the board of directors of Kratos Defense & Security Solutions (KTOS) and the Capital Group. 

 All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.