Strategy after Deterrence

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

6
ESCAPING THE NUCLEAR REVOLUTION: ANTI-NUCLEAR DEFENSES AND DETERRENCE

So far, we have seen that there are inescapable tensions built into the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence, and that conventional deterrence is not an escape from these. There is one other possible approach to a union between prenuclear strategic thinking and postnuclear technology, in order to escape the limits of nuclear deterrence. If conventional deterrence will not work, then nuclear transcendence will. Nuclear weapons can be made obsolete, or so incompetent relative to strategic non-nuclear weapons, that dissuasion against aggression will no longer depend mainly on atomic reprisal. As in the case of conventional deterrence as an attempted escape from the paradoxes of nuclear strategy, so, too, for anti-nuclear defenses: The appeal runs the ideological gamut from military mavens of new technology to the academic and policy priesthood that despises nuclear weapons for their own sake.

Therefore, the subject of anti-nuclear defenses, SDI, and so forth cannot be avoided. It will be approached here, however, in keeping with our overall objective of focussing on the relationship between coercion, or force, and policy. Unfortunately, much of the popularity of anti-nuclear defenses to both the political Right and Left in the United States springs from a desire to return to the golden age of imagined U.S. nuclear invulnerability. In this imaginary past, questions of actually using nuclear weapons during war, or employing them as coercive instruments during crisis, remained buried in the agendas of research specialists, far from public visibility. The invulnerable past is as imaginary as the invulnerable future, based now on weapons poised in the sky to shoot down weapons

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