The Rise and Fall of Nuclearism: Fear and Faith as Determinants of the Arms Race

By Sheldon Ungar | Go to book overview

9
First Strikes and the Window-of- Vulnerability Panic

Nothing has created so much fear so regularly as the threat of a Soviet first strike. That fear has been a mainstay of totalitarian omnipotence and, by implication, of the arms race itself. The elements of totalitarian omnipotence--world domination, ruthlessness, expediency, and striking when the capacity is sufficient--embody the beliefs necessary to render credible the threat of the Soviets' using their strategic arsenal, either directly or as a means of blackmail. Essentially, the Soviets care only about their ultimate historical destiny: large cities and millions of people can be sacrificed for it. The Soviets are prudent, however, and will not take risks unless the correlation of forces is clearly in their favor. Although American vigilance and nuclear superiority have held them at bay, they are biding their time and planning, waiting for their historic opportunity.

Windows of opportunity that included the possibility of nuclear blackmail or an actual first strike were opened, ostensibly, during the Korean War, in the race for the H-bomb, and in the missile gap that

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The Rise and Fall of Nuclearism: Fear and Faith as Determinants of the Arms Race
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - God, Progress, and the Great Collapse 11
  • 2 - The Drama of Omnipotence 25
  • 3 - The Testing and Display of Indispensable Power 43
  • 4 - Managing the Confounding Power 57
  • 5 - The Soviet Atomic Bomb- Korean War Panic 77
  • 6 - Sputnik and the Challenge to America's Destiny 105
  • 7 - The Cuban Missile Crisis 123
  • 8 - Nuclear Forgetting Versus Totalitarian Omnipotence 135
  • 9 - First Strikes and the Window-Of- Vulnerability Panic 157
  • Conclusion 177
  • References 191
  • Index 207
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