National Affairs: THE WANING NUCLEAR DETERRENT

The Unthinkable Must Be Thought About

DURING the H-bomb years it has become commonplace to say that nuclear war is "unthinkable" or "suicidal" or "preposterous," that it would bring "mutual annihilation" or "the end of civilization," or, as President Eisenhower put it, "a great emptiness." This apocalyptic vision of nuclear war, shared by both laymen and most defense experts, underlies a basic assumption of current U.S. defense policies: the threat of retaliatory nuclear attack by the U.S. is so frightening to Russian decision makers that it will automatically deter them from aggression.

Both the "mutual annihilation" vision and the automatic-deterrence strategy come under...

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