Nuclear strategy

Colin McInnes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


American nuclear strategy has been marked therefore, by a persistent dilemma: on the one hand, spasm responses such as Massive Retaliation and Mutual Assured Destruction have been seen as undesirable; on the other hand, alternative warfighting strategies have been criticized as unworkable, with dangerously destabilizing strike connotations. Deterrence rests upon the threat that the costs of aggression will outweigh the gains. When added to the problems of credibility over extended deterrence and of reaction to limited threats, a more flexible and limited nuclear strategy seems desirable. Developments in the 1970s and more recent research into Soviet strategy have emphasized that, far from following an American lead, the Soviets have their own distinctive approach to nuclear strategy, a product of their historical legacy, ideology and bureaucratic politics. The simple punishment model of deterrence is highly unsatisfactory without a nuclear monopoly. Problems surround both the practicability and desirability of limited nuclear war. This is the dilemma that has dominated US nuclear strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWarfare in the Twentieth Century
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice
EditorsColin McInnes, G. D. Sheffield
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781000339031
ISBN (Print)9780043550342, 9780367635756, 9780043550359
Publication statusPublished - 08 Sept 1988


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