Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

ON NUCLEAR DETERRENCE AND ASSURANCE

clear disarmament seriously as the priority US goal should be

recognized as entailing the serious risk of further vilifying those

US forces that may be important to deter future war, assure allies,

and help contain nuclear proliferation.

Balance-of-Terror Tenets versus

Plausible Deep Nuclear Force Reductions

Not all visions offer a wise path forward. Karl Marx’s slogan

“from each according to his ability, to each according to his

needs” was a beautiful vision borrowed from scripture. Attempts

to realize that vision in the Soviet Union instead produced

misery for millions and probably set back Russian economic

development by half a century.

The vision of zero nuclear weapons appears beautiful. 67 Yet,

were the United States to pursue that vision as its priority

goal, it could degrade the deterrence of war and the assurance

of allies. In contrast, these same risks do not necessarily apply

to deep reductions in the US strategic nuclear arsenal. Deep

nuclear reductions could be consistent with continued support

for US strategic goals in a dynamic strategic environment—which

is why they could be undertaken prudently in

select circumstances. 68

The continuing undisciplined application of the balance-ofterror

tenets to contemporary questions of strategic forces and

policy, however, will likely preclude the opportunity for prudent

deep nuclear force reductions. As applied, those tenets work

against the US policies and capabilities that could otherwise

help to mitigate the risks associated with deep nuclear reductions

and thus help to make them acceptable to US leaders

responsible for ‘‘the common defense.”

The character and size of the US nuclear arsenal should be

paced by numerous factors, including:

the contemporary, highly dynamic strategic threat environment;

the relationship of the nuclear arsenal to other national

goals (e.g., nonproliferation);

the goals the nuclear arsenal is to serve;

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