Ambiguity and Deterrence: British Nuclear Strategy, 1945-1964

By John Baylis | Go to book overview

3
Strategic Dilemmas 1950-1951

It would not be a good thing for the world if the United Kingdom were to surrender to the United States the monopoly of so great a source of power.

( Ernest Bevin, 1950)

IN the final eighteen months of the Attlee government an attempt was made to bring together the various strands of policy in a global strategy review. This provided an opportunity for the Chiefs of Staff to reassess the key priorities of strategic planning after the controversies of recent years and to take stock of the dramatic changes which had taken place in the strategic environment in the late 1940s. No sooner had the military chiefs completed their review, however, than the Korean War broke out, raising pressing questions about Britain's strategic relationship with the United States and setting the scene for a further re-evaluation of strategic policy.


Background to the 1950 Strategic Review

The nine-month period from September 1949 to May 1950 was a dramatic period of soul-searching within the defence establishment in Britain. At the start of the period, in a note dated 12 September 1949, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Slim, suggested that the time had come to reconsider the whole basis of British strategy. As far as Slim was concerned the 'Overall Strategic Plan' of May 1947 had been overtaken by events. The deterioration of the Cold War, the new alliance framework, and growing economic pressures all indicated the need for a major reappraisal of defence needs.1 Slim's arguments were further reinforced by the Soviet atomic

____________________
1
DEFE 5/16, COS (49) 298, Note by the CIGS, 12 Sept. 1949.

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