From Nuclear Military Strategy to a World without War: A History and a Proposal

By Roger Hilsman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
New Look, Massive Retaliation, and Flexible Response

To sum up, the U.S. response to the successful Soviet test of an atomic weapon in 1949 was not a change in strategy but an attempt to build an H-bomb, a subject to which we will return in the next chapter. The response to the attack on South Korea, however, was a change in strategy. Nuclear weapons meant that if the Allied forces were pushed off the European continent they would never be able to get back. The threat to bomb Soviet cities with nuclear weapons was a powerful deterrent to a direct Soviet attack on Europe, but suppose the Soviet armies occupied Europe in a lightning blow and simultaneously evacuated their cities? They could get their supplies from the farms and factories of occupied Europe, holding the Allied population hostage to American restraint. The Allied strategic planners concluded, to repeat, that an effective deterrent would have to include ground forces stationed in Europe that were large enough to hold back the Soviet forces until the nuclear bombs had done their work.


ENDING THE WAR IN KOREA

Meanwhile, the war in Korea dragged on and on. Casualties mounted. The economic drain on the United States, and in turn on America's allies, was enormous. The Truman administration gave at least some thought to using nuclear weapons to bring the war to a rapid conclusion. But such thoughts were quickly dismissed.

The stockpile of nuclear weapons at that time was about 200. The military argued a twofold position. They argued, first, that the stockpile was not yet sufficient to provide an effective deterrent to the Soviets and should not be drawn

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