Sam Nunn on Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation
Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal, "Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation: The doctrine of mutual assured destruction is obsolete in the post-Cold War era" written by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn ~ 07 March 2011.
As long as there has been war, there have been efforts to deter actions a nation considers threatening. Until fairly recently, this meant building a military establishment capable of intimidating the adversary, defeating him or making his victory more costly than the projected gains. This, with conventional weapons, took time. Deterrence and war strategy were identical.
The advent of the nuclear weapon introduced entirely new factors. It was possible, for the first time, to inflict at the beginning of a war the maximum casualties. The doctrine of mutual assured destruction represented this reality. Deterrence based on nuclear weapons, therefore, has three elements:
• It is importantly psychological, depending on calculations for which there is no historical experience. It is therefore precarious.
• It is devastating. An unrestrained nuclear exchange between superpowers could destroy civilized life as we know it in days.
• Mutual assured destruction raises enormous inhibitions against employing the weapons.
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