Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

Excerpt

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't. --Polonius, in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

To understand nuclear deterrence is to comprehend the curious relationship between power and MADness. It is a relationship in which the rational and the irrational are inherently linked. It is the logic of this linkage, and of the corresponding linkage between power and MADness, that this volume begins to explore.

The study of nuclear deterrence starts with two inseparable observations. On the one hand, nuclear threats create the potential for significant political power--even if, as is frequently claimed, only the power to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, the mutual vulnerability in the U.S.-Soviet relationship that stems from the existence of capabilities for Mutual Assured Destruction--MAD--threatens to make the actual execution of nuclear threats quite mad, at least for a state that values its own survival. What, then, makes nuclear threats credible? Where, in a MAD world, does power come from? What capacities or incapacities make it possible to employ nuclear threats to achieve desired outcomes in a world of mutual vulnerability?

This volume explores the logic of power in a MAD environment. It focuses on the ability of a state to create credible commitments to effective nuclear threats. Ultimately, its conclusions are quite optimistic, if books on nuclear deterrence can ever be said to have optimistic conclusions. In the great and never-ending policy dispute between those who think nuclear deterrence requires more (more weapons, more capabilities, more options) and those who think it requires rather less, this volume provides strong support for the latter group. The logic it uses in doing so, however, is likely to be distasteful . . .

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