Since the U.S. presidential elections of 1980, debate has intensified between those who believe that nuclear weapons can only deter a war not intended to be fought and those who see nuclear weapons as an advancement in weaponry that allows for the waging and winning of a nuclear war. At the focal point of this debate is the rise of the “counterforce” doctrine-the concept of a nuclear attack exclusively against the enemy’s military forces. The author, in outlining the unresolved tension between the two approaches, examines the reasons counterforce has become widely accepted in U.S. nuclear weapons policies. He argues that many strategists are worried that the counterforce strategy is out of touch with the reality of the nuclear world and see it as merely a “technical fix” for a dilemma that may have no solution. Finally, Dr. David discusses the implications of adherence to the counterforce doctrine despite increasing popular support for avoiding nuclear war through deterrence and arms control.
Foreword -- Introduction: The Meaning of Nuclear Weapons Revisited -- The Ongoing Debate on the Nuclear Revolution -- Cultural Factors and Security: The Forgotten Dimension of Strategy -- The Nuclear Debate: ‘The Apocalyptics’ Versus ‘the Conventionalists’ -- The Uncertainties of Atomic International Relations -- The Nuclear Debate and the Evolution of the American Nuclear Doctrine -- Limited Nuclear War and the Wisdom of the Doctrine of Counterforce -- Introduction to Part 2: What Is Counterforce? -- Military Flexibility and Thermonuclear Destruction -- Defense Is the Stronger Form of Waging War -- The Politics of Counterforce -- Nuclear Decision-Making and the Fog of War -- The Counterforce Debate and the Problems of Soviet Nuclear Strategy and American Vulnerability -- Conclusion to Part 2: Counterforce and the Nuclear Revolution -- The American Style of Nuclear Strategy -- Features and Effects of the American Approach -- The Dynamics of the American Approach -- Has the American Approach ‘Conventionalized’ U.S. Nuclear Strategy? -- The American Strategic Style and Counterforce -- The Technical Approach and the Adoption of Counterforce (1974–1984) -- The Dynamics of Counterforce (1981–1984) -- Into the Second Reagan Administration (1985–1986) -- Conclusion: The Meaning of Nuclear Weapons Reassessed -- Appendix: System Change and Nuclear War