CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 03

The Theory of military deterrence was based on a simple psychological truth, that fear of retaliation makes a would-be aggressor nation hesitate before attacking and is often sufficient to deter it altogether from attacking. Clearly, then, to maintain military deterrence, a nation would have to be believed to have retaliatory power so great that a potential aggressor nation would have reason to think that it could not defend itself against such retaliation.

If the statements above are true, which one of the following can be properly inferred?

[A]. would-be aggressor nation can be deterred from attacking only if it has certain knowledge that it would be destroyed in retaliation by the country it attacks.
[B]. A nation will not attack another nation if it believes that its own retaliatory power surpasses that of the other nation.
[C]. One nation's failing to attack another establishes that the nation that fails to attack believes that it could not withstand a retaliatory attack from the other nation.
[D]. It is in the interests of a nation that seeks deterrence and has unsurpassed military power to let potential aggressors against it become aware of its power of retaliatory attack.
[E]. Maintaining maximum deterrence from aggression by other nations requires that a nation maintain a retaliatory force greater than that of any other nation.
Answer: D

According to the author, the basis of the deterrence theory is that fear of retaliation keeps (deters) a potential aggressor from attacking. She further argues that maintaining deterrence requires maximum fear—that is, a potential aggressor must be so convinced of the invincibility of its potential opponent that it will lay low. From that, (D) must follow: A powerful nation seeking deterrence will want to let would-be aggressors know just how strong it really is; that knowledge is what makes deterrence work. It’s unlikely that you pre-phrased (D); what’s more likely is that after studying the stimulus, you proceeded to examine the five choices and (with luck) chose the right one.

Here’s why the others should have been bypassed:

(A)’s necessary condition—the “certain knowledge” of total destruction, signalled by “only if”—is not something to which the author is committed. Deterrence simply requires enough awareness of an opponent’s strength to make the potential aggressor think twice. (A) is too extreme to be a proper inference.

(B) offers a case in which military deterrence would not be in effect, because the aggressor nation believes itself to be mightier than its potential target. This doesn't mean such a nation will definitely attack the other nation for this reason alone, but we certainly can't infer, as (B) does, that this country won't attack.

(C) Oh yeah? An equally likely reason that one nation fails to attack another is that it (the first nation) simply isn’t warlike and has no designs on the other. (C) as written—implying that all peace is based only on fear of retaliation—is deeply cynical at best, loony at worst.

(E) makes a classic scope shift. The stimulus says that deterrence relies on aggressors believing that a nation has superior retaliatory power. (E) changes this to read that the defending nation must actually possess that power, a subtle but very important difference.

When attacking inference questions, avoid answer choices, such as (A) here, that are too extreme.

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