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Atoms, Strategy and Policy
AFTER much use in political debate, words tend to become leathery and pliable in the meanings they suggest. Perhaps they gain something in richness of implication but they lose in precision. For example, the word "policy" is used in two related but different senses. In one sense, the action sense, it refers to the general guide lines which we believe should and will in fact govern our actions in various contingencies. In the other sense, the declaratory sense, it refers to policy statements which have as their aim political and psychological effects.
Much of the discussion of recent months concerning Western atomic policy has been on the issue of "massive retaliation" versus "graduated deterrence." The phrase "massive retaliation" has been used by Secretary Dulles to describe a policy of relying for our security "primarily upon a great capacity to retaliate, instantly, by means and at places of our choosing." The phrase "graduated deterrence" has been used by a number of people on both sides of the Atlantic. Admiral Sir Anthony Buzzard, formerly Director of British Naval Intelligence, recently described it as a policy of "limiting wars (in weapons, targets, area and time) to the minimum force necessary to deter and repel aggression." Although many confusing subsidiary points have been raised, the main point at issue between the two concepts is the reliance which should be placed upon the capacity to bomb centers of population and industry with nuclear weapons.
The discussion of the two concepts would attain greater clarity if a distinction were maintained between the two meanings of the word "policy."