Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence

1st Edition

By Keith B. Payne, James Schlesinger


110 pages

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pub: 2014-11-27
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The National Institute for Public Policy’s new book, Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence, is the first of its kind. Dr. Keith Payne, the late former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and an unparalleled bipartisan group of senior civilian and military experts critically examined eight basic assumptions of Minimum Deterrence against available evidence. In general, Minimum Deterrence does not fare well under the careful scrutiny.

Proponents of a "Minimum Deterrent" US nuclear force posture believe that anywhere from a handful to a few hundred nuclear weapons are adequate to deter reliably and predictably any enemy from attacking the United States now and in the future. Because nuclear weapons are so destructive, their thinking goes, no foreign leader would dare challenge US capabilities. The benefits, advocates claim, of reducing US nuclear weapons to the "minimum" level needed are: better relations with Russia and China, reinforcement of the arms control and Nonproliferation Treaty, billions of defense dollars in savings, and greater international stability on the way to "nuclear zero."

As political pressure builds to pursue this vision of minimum US deterrence, Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence stands as the seminal study to address the many claims of great benefit against available empirical evidence.

This book was published as a National Institute Press monograph, Keith B. Payne and James Schlesinger, Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence (Fairfax, VA: National Institute Press, 2013) and as a special issue of Comparative Strategy.


"Schlesinger and Payne critically evaluate eight key assumptions underlying the strategy of minimum nuclear deterrence. They conclude that the diplomatic benefits of reducing the United States’ weapons store to the lowest level ‘required’ are outweighed by the risk of attack if the perceived threat of US nuclear retaliation is reduced." - Lanxin Xiang, (2014)

Table of Contents

Preface Executive Summary I. Introduction: Minimum Deterrence II. Minimum Deterrence and U.S. Policy III. Minimum Deterrence: Assumptions, Logic and Conclusions IV. Examining and Testing the Fundamental Assumptions and Logic of Minimum Deterrence V. Summary and Conclusion: How Does Minimum Deterrence Fare Against Available Evidence and What Alternative Guidelines May Be Better? Notes Appendix

About the Authors

Keith B. Payne, Study Director; President, National Institute for Public Policy; Department Head, graduate school of Defense and Strategic Studies, Missouri State University (Washington, DC campus)

The Honorable James Schlesinger, Chairman, Senior Review Group, former Secretary of Defense; Secretary of Energy; Director of Central Intelligence; Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General