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Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy

Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy

Charles L. Glaser
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy
    Book Description:

    With sweeping changes in the Soviet Union and East Europe having shaken core assumptions of U.S. defense policy, it is time to reassess basic questions of American nuclear strategy and force requirements. In a comprehensive analysis of these issues, Charles Glaser argues that even before the recent easing of tension with the Soviet Union, the United States should have revised its nuclear strategy, rejecting deterrent threats that require the ability to destroy Soviet nuclear forces and forgoing entirely efforts to limit damage if all-out nuclear war occurs. Changes in the Soviet Union, suggests Glaser, may be best viewed as creating an opportunity to make revisions that are more than twenty years overdue. Glaser's provocative work is organized in three parts. "The Questions behind the Questions" evaluates the basic factual and theoretical disputes that underlie disagreements about U.S. nuclear weapons policy. "Alternative Nuclear Worlds" compares "mutual assured destruction capabilities" (MAD)--a world in which both superpowers' societies are highly vulnerable to nuclear retaliation--to the basic alternatives: mutual perfect defenses, U.S. superiority, and nuclear disarmament. Would any basic alternatives be preferable to MAD? Drawing on the earlier sections of the book, "Decisions in MAD" addresses key choices facing American decision makers.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6202-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    This book seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the basic issues of American nuclear strategy and force requirements. Strategic nuclear weapons play a central and controversial role in protecting U.S. interests. They are commonly believed to provide important benefits, by reducing the probability of superpower war,¹ while at the same time creating grave dangers, by providing the Soviet Union with the ability to destroy the United States. Beyond such broad judgments, however, lies a continuing debate over which nuclear strategy can most effectively deter the Soviet Union. Further, looking to the future, many analysts hope to find policies that...

  5. Part I: The Questions behind the Questions

    • CHAPTER TWO Disputes over the U.S. Military Requirements of Nuclear Deterrence
      (pp. 19-60)

      A relatively small number of disputes about facts and theories determine the broad outlines of the debate over U.S. nuclear policy. Analysts’ positions on these disputes go a long way toward determining their policy conclusions. Consequently, identifying and assessing the competing positions on basic disputes enables us to cut quickly to the core of the strategic nuclear debate and provides a solid foundation from which to evaluate specific questions in greater detail.

      I divide the overall strategic nuclear debate along two dimensions—the military requirements of deterrence and the broader international political consequences of the interaction between military policy and...

    • CHAPTER THREE Disputes about the International Political Consequences of Competing and Cooperating with the Soviet Union
      (pp. 61-100)

      U.S. strategic nuclear policy should not be based entirely on the military requirements of nuclear deterrence, but also on the policy’s broader international political consequences. U.S. nuclear policy could influence Soviet images of the United States, Soviet domestic debates over foreign and military policy, and the extent of conflict of interest between the superpowers.

      These broader political consequences can significantly influence U.S. security. Let us look at an example where increasing U.S. military capabilities might decrease our security. If a competitive U.S. nuclear policy communicates a hostile image of the United States and as a result increases Soviet doubts about...

  6. Part II: Alternative Nuclear Worlds

    • CHAPTER FOUR Why Even Good Defenses May Be Bad
      (pp. 103-132)

      At present, the United States cannot physically prevent the Soviet Union from virtually destroying it. Instead of defending its homeland against nuclear attacks, the United States achieves its security by deterring these Soviet attacks. The United States maintains a redundant assured destruction capability, insuring its ability to inflict extremely high levels of damage on the Soviet Union even following a full-scale attack against U.S. forces.¹ Since the Soviet Union now maintains a similar capability, the superpowers live in MAD.

      This chapter analyzes the desirability of a world in which both superpowers have perfect or “near-perfect” strategic defenses—that is, systems...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Why U.S. Superiority Is Probably Inferior to MAD
      (pp. 133-165)

      Would a world in which the United States had strategic nuclear superiority—the ability to protect at least some of its cities while maintaining its assured destruction capability against Soviet society—be preferable to the current world of Mutual Assured Destruction?

      The desirability of U.S. strategic superiority is a question that is rarely addressed explicitly. Superiority is most often debated in terms of the feasibility or infeasibility of attaining it. In fact, virtually the entire case against pursuing strategic superiority has been based on its technical infeasibility. As discussed in earlier chapters, available assessments are quite pessimistic about U.S. prospects...

    • CHAPTER SIX Why Disarmament Is Probably More Dangerous than MAD
      (pp. 166-204)

      Calls for disarmament play an important role in the nuclear debate, providing a long-term vision in which superpower cooperation eradicates their vulnerability to nuclear annihilation. In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev presented a plan for complete nuclear disarmament by the year 2000.¹ Presidents Reagan and Carter expressed support for similar goals.² At the Reykjavik summit, Reagan and Gorbachev discussed the possibility in some detail.³ This interest in nuclear disarmament is neither new nor confined to the rhetoric of national leaders.⁴

      Although usually dismissed as utopian, disarmament nevertheless influences the policy debate by offering a distant alternative judged preferable to MAD. Although there...

  7. Part III: Decisions in MAD

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Does the United States Need Counterforce in MAD?
      (pp. 207-256)

      The deepest divide over U.S. nuclear strategy and force requirements in MAD is about counterforce—systems capable of destroying Soviet nuclear forces. While accepting that the United States needs forces for an assured destruction capability, debate focuses on whether counterforce can enhance the U.S. ability to deter Soviet attacks and reduce the costs if war occurs.

      American counterforce forces include highly accurate ballistic missiles, such as the Minuteman IIIA ICBM, the MX ICBM, and the D-5 (Trident II) SLBM, which are distinguished from other counterforce systems by their “promptness.”¹ Their high accuracy enables them to destroy targets that the Soviet...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Does the United States Need ICBMs?
      (pp. 257-284)

      Since at least the late 1960s the United States has feared that its ICBMs in fixed silos would become highly vulnerable to a massive Soviet attack.¹ Growth in the size and improvements in the accuracy of Soviet ICBMs during the 1970s meant that, in theory at least, U.S. ICBMs would be highly vulnerable in the near future. By the late 1970s, many held that 90 percent of U.S. ICBMs would soon be vulnerable to Soviet attack.² The notorious “window of vulnerability” was based largely on these claims.

      Solving the ICBM vulnerability problem has been a priority for over a decade....

    • CHAPTER NINE Should the United States Deploy Limited Ballistic Missile Defenses?
      (pp. 285-314)

      Although debate over ballistic missile defense (BMD) has focused on near-perfect systems—those necessary for escaping from MAD—the United States could deploy BMD in pursuit of a variety of more modest strategic goals. Possible goals for ballistic missile defense of more limited capability include increasing the survivability of American military forces and reducing the damage that a small nuclear attack would inflict on American cities. Unlike near-perfect defenses, less-than-near-perfect defense capable of satisfying some of these goals might be available in the relatively near future.¹

      President Reagan’s March 1983 speech²—which raised the hope that U.S. cities could be...

    • CHAPTER TEN What Type of Arms Control in MAD?
      (pp. 315-360)

      Arms control does not lack for proposals. Since the signing of SALT II, analysts have suggested a wide variety of competing proposals, including comprehensive freezes on the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons,¹ ceilings on the number of strategic warheads,² and reductions in the size of offensive forces.³

      Missing is a clear picture ofwhythe United States should pursue strategic nuclear arms control.⁴ Much of the debate focuses on the details of these proposals, for example, where various ceilings will be set and what verification measures will be necessary. Less regularly explored, and more important, are the broad purposes toward...

  8. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusions
    (pp. 361-370)

    The preceding chapters provide a detailed analysis of a wide range of issues and arguments central to U.S. nuclear strategy and force posture. I first explored the theoretical and factual disputes that underlie the debate over strategic nuclear policy, identifying the basic questions and then assessing competing answers. Following chapters then used this foundation to assess the benefits and costs of specific policies. Among its advantages, this type of systematic analysis enables us to understand policy disputes in terms of disagreements over basic questions—instead of the details of specific debates—and to explore more carefully the logic that links...

  9. Index
    (pp. 371-378)