No First Use, Counterforce, and MAD as a Strategy
So the debate on strategy continued. There were arguments for and against not only the strategies laid out in the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations, but also on what constituted an effective deterrent. 1 The debate also included proposals for at least three nuclear strategies that have not been adopted by any of these administrations. The first of these was a strategy that combined a declaration that the United States had adopted the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons with a buildup of conventional forces large enough to meet the Soviets without having to rely on nuclear weapons, especially in Europe. The second was a counterforce strategy designed to fight and win a nuclear war. And the third was to give up the idea in McNamara's second strategy that the destruction of the Soviet Union could be "assured" in some way that would permit the United States to escape destruction, to accept the certainty that the "assured destruction" would be mutual, and to concentrate on making certain that the United States could guarantee the destruction of the Soviet Union. Mutual assured destruction had been a condition or situation imposed by the nature of the weapons. The idea here was to make MAD a strategy. We will examine each of these three strategies in turn.
In 1982, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, George Kennan, and Gerard Smith jointly proposed that the United States should deny itself the option of being the first to use nuclear weapons and couple this renunciation with an increase in conventional forces, mainly in the NATO area, massive enough to match the much greater strength the Soviet Union then enjoyed in conventional forces.