Weapons Without Purpose? Nuclear Strategy in the Post-Cold War Era

With the end of the Cold War, most Americans stopped thinking about nuclear weapons. They assumed that such weapons were now of little use and that Washington would soon sensibly wrap up any remaining problems in the nuclear arena. In The Price of Dominance, however, Jan Lodal warns that this complacency is unwarranted and proposes a comprehensive nuclear strategy for the post-Cold War era. Unfortunately, Lodal's recommendations have greater merits than chances of being adopted. And because he treats so many issues in fewer than 150 somewhat repetitive pages, readers receive a great deal of information quickly but without much depth. Those who disagree with him or advocate alternative policies are unlikely to feel that he has dealt adequately with their positions -- let alone be convinced by his.

One point on which Lodal cannot be disputed, however, is his claim that U.S. nuclear policy has drifted since the Cold War. Here he speaks with some authority, having served on the staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and having worked for the Defense Department in the Clinton administration.

The end of the Cold War has brought more changes to world politics than to the American nuclear posture. The 1997 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (start iii) called for the United States and Russia to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals to 2,000-2,500 warheads, but political obstacles have prevented ratification and both countries have retained much larger forces. And although the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty sharply limited missile defenses, the national missile defense (NMD) plans sketched by the Clinton administration would have required the treaty's revision. Now President George W. Bush has called for scrapping that treaty in favor of developing an extensive version of NMD. U.S. officials argue that missile defense is aimed

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