This paper briefly explores the origins and defining features of deterrence theory and examines two fundamental weaknesses associated with the contemporary Western conception of deterrence. Perceiving the role of deterrence as maintaining the status quo and labelling certain military capabilities as constituting ‘a deterrent’ are limiting and can provoke unintended consequences. Deterrence and escalation are inherently intertwined and any single attempt to deter can result in de-escalation or escalation. A new conceptual framework is proposed, which conceives deterrence as a strategic way to achieve a broad spectrum of political ends including de-escalation and escalation, through positive and negative means.