Date of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

John Rose


strategic culture, taqiyya, intercontinental ballistic missile, deterrence, Kahn, Schelling, terrorism, WMD, nuclear, proliferation

Subject Categories

International Relations | Other Political Science


The geostrategic environment since the end of the Cold War has drastically changed the way United States (U.S.) policymakers develop strategies to combat a wide range of hostile threats facing the country, especially in the field of the deterrence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Iran is such an actor, who poses one of the greater proliferation threats in the world and continues to commit hostile actions in the Middle East. In this post-Cold War environment, it is imperative that the United States develop a tailored deterrence strategy to meet this challenge. Past deterrence strategies popular during the bipolar era of the Cold War focused on the idea of a “rational actor,” one in which an adversary theoretically would similarly make decisions to how U.S. leadership thinks about the values of a cost-benefit analysis of any strategic action. However, with the emergence of new and asymmetric threats, it has become apparent that not all actors in the world think in the same way as U.S. leaders. Starting in the Cold War era, the concept of strategic culture emerged, which sought to understand the cultural drivers behind state behavior. Strategic culture is a field of research which gives insight into another culture, and how their values, norms, and perceptions shape the way that they view rational decision making on a cost-benefit analysis. This field of study can provide explanations for decisions that others might make; how/when to go to war, what constitutes the rationality to pursue or use WMDs, and what values they hold which are exploitable. By using strategic culture as a tool to tailor a deterrence strategy, the United States will be better able to formulate policy to contain, deter, and defeat adversaries. This report will use the Islamic Republic of Iran as a case study to present its threat to U.S. strategic objectives, explain how strategic culture can be used to understand threats from Iran, and then assess its strategic culture to use in the formulation of a tailored deterrence policy against the Islamic Republic.


© Ryan P. Taylor

Open Access