Managing Nuclear Operations

The new wave in strategic analysis is reflected by this hefty volume. There was a time when strategists were mainly concerned with the traditional counting and weighing of nuclear forces to determine the balance, and who had the advantage. As fears of a "bolt out of the blue" have faded, interest has shifted to the "management" of forces, which is broadly defined to include the how and why of nuclear strategy. Unfortunately, the technical nature of the subject leaves the lay reader further and further behind (there are five pages of abbreviations and acronyms). Among the many erudite essays, a few nuggets stand out. The Soviets, according to Stephen Meyer, would prefer a first-strike strategy but lack confidence in it, and therefore Moscow has more or less adopted a strategy of preemption. In the event of nuclear war or a nuclear crisis, there is a built-in tension between the strategist who wants great flexibility, and the actual command systems which tend in the other direction-that of limiting options. Theodore Jarvis concludes that while strategic defenses on both sides would complicate planning for an offensive strike, the existence of strategic defense would perforce mean granting some degree of automation in the decision to use weapons. A great paradox is that delegating authority to use nuclear weapons may increase deterrence, while maintaining all authority in one central place (i.e., with the president) could create vulnerabilities.

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