Courtesy Reuters

Our policies for preventing nuclear war, mercifully, have never been tested to the point of failure. This cannot be said of our policies that have sought to reverse, or at least to halt, the expansion of nuclear arsenals threatening our annihilation. For more than two decades now, the United States, using both diplomacy and self-restraint, has tried—and failed—to halt the nuclear arms competition with the Soviet Union.

The most important reason for seeking to manage and control the nuclear arms competition is to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The U.S. pursuit of these linked objectives, however, has been under the spell of a particular theory from the mid-1960s until recently. This theory holds that "the two sides" can limit or reduce their nuclear weaponry if, and only if, they both consent to leave their territory totally vulnerable to each other’s nuclear attack. Such consensual

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

  • Fred Charles Iklé has been the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy since 1981. He was Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, 1973-76.
  • More By Fred Charles Iklé