Scholars, policy analysts, and government officials have engaged in a great debate since 1991 about the future of nuclear weapons in world politics. This debate has special significance for the United States at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new century. The United States was the first country to enter the nuclear age and the first to use nuclear weapons in war. Nuclear weapons helped to make the United States one of the world's two military superpowers throughout the Cold War. The United States relied on its nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe, by including European allies within the umbrella of American nuclear protection (although this guarantee did not dissuade the French from going their own way on matters nuclear). Nuclear weapons made the United States, along with Britain, France, China, and the Soviet Union, a member of the club of five Cold War great powers.
The end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union have called into question all of the assumptions on which U.S. military strategy, and the role of nuclear weapons in that strategy, were based. Contributors to this volume offer diverse perspectives on the role of nuclear weapons in the new world order and on the implications of the new condition for U.S. security policy.
George H. Quester reviews the nuclear history through which we have lived, especially the evolution of U.S. Cold War nuclear strategy and policy. We can derive some insights about the future of nuclear weapons and arms control from a correct understanding of this nuclear