The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years

By Lawrence S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

6
Les débats stratégiques

"Les débats stratégiques," an examination of the debate over nuclear strategy between Europeans and Americans, was presented at a conference in Paris in February 1996 sponsored by the Centre d'études d'histoire de la défense, Ministère de la Défense and published as a chapter in Maurice Vaïsse, et al., eds., La France et L'Otan, 1949- 1996 ( Paris: Editions Complexe, 1996), 307-22.

The literature of what may be termed "the great nuclear debate" 1 within NATO between the United States and the European partners in the years of the Gaullist ascendancy usually has been framed in terms of low vs. high nuclear threshold. More specifically, it applies to European, particularly French, suspicions of American pressure for "flexible response" and a build-up of conventional force as evidence of a weakening of America's concern for the defense of Europe. It was a debate between two major figures--the French president Charles de Gaulle and the American secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. The debate had many implications: American insistence upon centralized control of nuclear decisions, European distrust and resentment of American authority, the particular French resentment of the Anglo-Saxon nuclear monopoly, and the lessening intensity of the Soviet threat which ultimately permitted France's withdrawal from the military arm of NATO in 1966.

What has received less attention is the division within the American establishment--both diplomatic and military--over the appropriate strategy toward the Communist bloc. De Gaulle may have offended other Europe

-99-

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