On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century

On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century

On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century

On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century

Synopsis

The last two decades have seen a slow but steady increase in nuclear armed states, and in the seemingly less constrained policy goals of some of the newer "rogue" states in the international system. The authors of On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century argue that a time may come when one of these states makes the conscious decision that using a nuclear weapon against the United States, its allies, or forward deployed forces in the context of a crisis or a regional conventional conflict may be in its interests. They assert that we are unprepared for these types of limited nuclear wars and that it is urgent we rethink the theory, policy, and implementation of force related to our approaches to this type of engagement.

Together they critique Cold War doctrine on limited nuclear war and consider a number of the key concepts that should govern our approach to limited nuclear conflict in the future. These include identifying the factors likely to lead to limited nuclear war, examining the geopolitics of future conflict scenarios that might lead to small-scale nuclear use, and assessing strategies for crisis management and escalation control. Finally, they consider a range of strategies and operational concepts for countering, controlling, or containing limited nuclear war.

Excerpt

Whether a nuclear war, if one ever occurs, can be kept limited may depend on who reads this book. That a nuclear war, if it were to occur, could be limited is not always judged a good thing. During the Cold War the possibility that the president of the United States might authorize nuclear weapons to be used selectively was opposed by hawks as “hold back sac,” a pusillanimous doctrine. It was also opposed by doves as possibly too much a temptation to a president facing a crisis or a troubled ground war. the judgment of the editors of this volume, and my judgment, is that both arguments have merit but that in the possible wars that we can imagine in the future, and not necessarily wars in which the United States is engaged, nuclear restraint ought to be encouraged and facilitated. and this book may help to encourage and facilitate, by calling attention to the important policy of mutual restraint, and increasing the likelihood that if nuclear use is ever contemplated the people making the decisions will have thought seriously about it before the moment of decision.

Depending on how you count, there have been, since 1945, eight or nine wars in which one side had nuclear weapons and chose not to use them (involving the usa, ussr, Britain, Israel, India, and Pakistan). That’s one kind of limited nuclear war, limited “nuclear” because the weapons were available and undoubtedly influenced both sides in the war. Another kind of limited nuclear war would be one in which both sides—India and Pakistan perhaps, or Iran and Israel, or North Korea and the United States—had . . .

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