Nuclear Weapons in the 1980s: MAD VS. NUTS: The Mutual Hostage Relationship of the Superpowers

Courtesy Reuters

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr. is currently Scholar-in-Residence at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. He served on the staff of the National Security Council from 1963 to 1969, was Assistant Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1969 to 1973, and Deputy Director of that Agency from 1977 to 1981. Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky is currently Professor of Physics at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He served from 1960 to 1965 as a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee and from 1977 to 1981 as a member of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament.

Since World War II there has been a continuing debate on military doctrine concerning the actual utility of nuclear weapons in war. This debate, irrespective of the merits of the divergent points of view, tends to create the perception that the outcome and scale of a nuclear conflict could be controlled by the doctrine or the types of nuclear weapons employed. Is this the case?

We believe not. In reality, the unprecedented risks of nuclear conflict are largely independent of doctrine or its application. The principal danger of doctrines that are directed at limiting nuclear conflicts is that they might be believed and form the basis for action without appreciation of the physical facts and uncertainties of nuclear conflict. The failure of policymakers to understand the truly revolutionary nature of nuclear weapons as instruments of war and the staggering size of the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and the Soviet Union could have catastrophic consequences for the entire world.

Military planners and strategic thinkers for 35 years have sought ways to apply the tremendous power of nuclear weapons against target systems that might contribute to the winning of a future war. In fact, as long as the United States held a virtual nuclear monopoly, the targeting of atomic weapons was looked upon essentially as a more effective extension of the strategic bombing concepts of World War II. With the advent in the mid-1950

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