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

By Roger Hilsman | Go to book overview

FLEXIBLE RESPONSE

By the election of 1960 the Democrats in Congress, their supporters in the Army and Navy, and academic specialists in defense policy had developed a rival doctrine, that of "flexible response." The theory here was that the United States should have balanced military forces consisting of land-based intercontinental missiles, missile-carrying submarines, land-based bombers, carrier-based bombers, both nuclear and conventional ground forces, and both nuclear and conventional naval forces. In this way the United States could respond to threats of any kind and at any level in precisely the same terms on which the threats were posed.

Pointing to the Korean War, the advocates of flexible response argued that the United States should be able to meet any level of threat without raising the level of the fighting and that this would ensure that a limited war would remain limited. Only in this way could accidental or limited aggression be met while minimizing the risk that violence might escalate into a much larger war, a nuclear World War III.

The key to deterrence, again, was the credibility of the threatened retaliation. Potential aggressors would be more effectively deterred if the United States had a wide variety of forces from nuclear to conventional at its disposal and, consequently, a range of responses corresponding to the range of threats.


NOTES
1
Zhou Enlai is here spelled in Pin Yin, rather than Wade-Giles, which would be Chou En-lai.
2
McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years ( New York: Random House, 1988), 240-241.
3
Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963), 453.
4
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-54, vol. 2 ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office), 532, 533, 593.
5
Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. 15 ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952- 1954), 1062 ff.
6
David Rosenberg, personal communication with author.
7
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, "A Look Through a Window at World War III", Journal of the Royal United Services Institute ( November 1954), 508.
8
Bundy, Danger and Survival, 323. The quotes from Eisenhower also appear in Bundy, where their sources are given.
9
The views of General Twining and the reports of Dulles's offer to Bidault are as cited in ibid., 266-267.
10
This account draws on Melvin Gurtov, The First Vietnam Crisis ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1967).
11
White House Years, 477.
12
The concept of "credibility" was developed by William W. Kaufmann. See his "The Requirements of Deterrence" in W. W. Kaufmann, ed., Military Policy and National Security ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1956).

-39-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xiv
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Part I - The First Attempts at Nuclear Strategy 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Manhattan Project and Early Strategic Thinking 3
  • Notes 14
  • Chapter 2 - Nuclear Strategy and the Attack on Korea 16
  • Notes 27
  • Chapter 3 - New Look, Massive Retaliation, and Flexible Response 28
  • Notes 39
  • Chapter 4 - The H-Bomb and the Balance of Terror 40
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter 5 - The Debate on Nuclear Strategy 49
  • Notes 55
  • Part II - The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Case Study of Nuclear Strategy 57
  • Chpter 6 - The Crisis 59
  • Notes 70
  • Chapter 7 - The Significance 71
  • Note 77
  • Chapter 8 - McNamara II, the Schlesinger Doctrine, and Star Wars 81
  • Notes 94
  • Chapter 9 - No First Use, Counterforce, and Mad as a Strategy 95
  • Notes 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Breakup of the Soviet Union and the Bush -- Yeltsin Agreement 105
  • Notes 113
  • Part IV - The World Turned Upside Down 115
  • A Chapter 11 - Developments in Weapons 117
  • Notes 122
  • Chapter 12 - The Members of the Nuclear Club and Their Arms 123
  • Notes 138
  • Chapter 13 - Soviet, Chinese, and European Nuclear Strategy 139
  • Notes 147
  • Chapter 14 - Armageddon: Six Scenarios of Nuclear War 148
  • Notes 163
  • Part V - Arms Control and Disarmament 165
  • Chapter 15 - The History of Arms Control 167
  • Notes 179
  • Chapter 16 - The Prospects for Arms Control 180
  • Notes 186
  • Part VI - Why War? 187
  • Chapter 17 - The Social and Political Functions of War 189
  • Chapter 18 - Nationalism 198
  • Notes 210
  • Chapter 19 - A World Political Process Without World Government? 211
  • Notes 225
  • Chapter 20 - A Curious Creature 227
  • Notes 230
  • Part VII - Conclusions 231
  • Chapter 21 - A Long-Term Solution, a Medium-Term Compromise, and a Short-Term Stopgap 233
  • Chapter 22 - The Lessons of the "Small Wars" Since World War II 238
  • Notes 256
  • Chapter 23 - Humanitarian and Peacekeeping Forces 259
  • Notes 274
  • Chapter 24 - Conventional Forces for the Medium-Term Compromise 278
  • Notes 290
  • Chapter 25 - Nuclear Forces for the Short- Term Stopgap 291
  • Notes 304
  • Index 305
  • About the Author *
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