15 Pages

Limited Nuclear War?

WithIan Clark

Bernard Brodie had earlier insisted that the sole purpose of strategic nuclear forces was to avert war and a lingering consensus had endured into the 1970s that this was so. With the prevalence of nuclear war-fighting scenarios in the latter 1970s this consensus began to disintegrate. The arguments, both official and non-official, in favour of a trend towards limited nuclear options or a countervailing strategy, are many and various. The United States has had a nuclear policy, in the sense of a set of activities, ever since 1945. The chapter explores specific aspects of the Ronald Reagan Administration's strategic "modernisation" programme with a view to eliciting further information on the state of the nuclear art and its attraction to ideas of limited nuclear war. Whether one concludes that limited-nuclear war theories make the outbreak of nuclear war more or less likely depends on whether one chooses to emphasise the enhanced deterrent effect or the augmented credibility of the threat.