Nuclear Strategy in the Twenty-First Century

Nuclear Strategy in the Twenty-First Century

Nuclear Strategy in the Twenty-First Century

Nuclear Strategy in the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

Although the Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union is gone, nuclear weapons remain as dangerous artifacts of times past. High-technology non-nuclear weapons, possibly including anti-missile defenses based on new principles, will dominate the battle space in the 21st century. But nuclear weapons will be deemed "useful" by those who oppose the status quo and peace and who cannot afford to race the United States and other "third wave" economies based on information and electronics. Nuclear deterrence and information will have an uneasy and dangerous coexistence. Nuclear weapons may be used by regional rogues to deter power projection and intervention by the United States and its allies. Information will be used to help confuse or defeat United States adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Excerpt

No theory or combination of theories is ever going to provide us with the paradigmatic equivalent of a "crystal ball," in which we can perceive the future with the same clarity we take for granted when we view the past. But theories that successfully explain a system's past do not normally lose their validity as they approach, and even proceed beyond, the present. --John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the End of the Cold War, p. 191

Nuclear strategy has an oxymoronic ring. The idea that something as subtle and nuanced as "strategy" could be related to the use of instruments as deadly as nuclear weapons sounds almost obscene to experts and to lay persons alike. "Nuclear strategy" calls to mind the jokes about "military intelligence" or "smart warfare." Despite understandable skepticism about their value, nuclear weapons had to be faced. With the advent of atomic bombs near the end of World War II and their use against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world of military technology had been changed forever. What changes nuclear weapons would bring about in the world of military strategy was, in 1945, still arguable.

We now have considerable distance and military hindsight on the question of how nuclear weapons influenced U.S., Soviet-Russian and other military strategies and defense policies. The Cold War has ended, and the Soviet Union is in the past tense. We can look backward more or less objectively and evaluate what nuclear weapons were good for, and what not, at least between 1946 and 1991. This is not just an aca-

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