Introduction to Strategic Studies/Nuclear Strategy

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part of the School of Strategic Studies

"If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of the nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of this world must unite or they will perish."
Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the Bomb.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Short (100 word or less) brief on the object and utility of the class.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This will introduce you to the issue and the questions to be posed in the class.

There are many questions and issues we will study in this

class. First, we will speak about the basics: what are nuclear

weapons, what can they do and who has them. Then we shall talk about

them and then write an essay about the matter. Then we will speak of

the consequences of nuclear weapons (i.e. what will happen to the

people the nuclear weapon harms, what will happen to the environment

and what will be the long term effects.) And finally, we shall study

nuclear strategy, what to do when faced with a choice to use nuclear

weapons, what a country does when one is luanched at them and why we

do not use them. Then there will be a series of papers to write and

at the end of the class we will have a final test. 40 multiple

choice, 5 short answer and 1 essay.

Readings[edit | edit source]

This will delineate the readings that should be done prior to undertaking the exercises in this class.

Lecture[edit | edit source]

The difference between strategies and tactics is the difference between war and battle, between painting and brushstroke. One can paint a fine picture in spite of a few bad strokes; or one can paint a horrible picture with all strokes perfect. In war, as in art, technical mastery is neither the hardest nor the most important part of the thing. In nuclear strategy as in strategy in general, students should never forget that the use of force must not be an end in itself, but only a means to serve a political end. Nuclear strategy, involving the most destructive form of warfare, is a strange Manticore of strategy and tactics. One can think of it as painting with a paint roller rather than a brush. Any application of nuclear weapons has enormous consequences. This is one reason why only two such devices have ever been used, against Japan in august 1945. They are the perfect “other means” because they are a one-stop method of transforming political will into military strategy. They also illustrate perfectly the fine balance we have tried to describe between threat and use of force. They are so diplomatically potent that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with vetoes are the five who are officially recognized as owning nuclear capacity – and the People’s Republic of China was only given a seat (replacing the Republic of China in Taiwan) four years after it went nuclear and proved it had a capable delivery system. Holding a strategic arsenal is effectively the ultimate veto anyhow – it’s really a veto on the future of human existence. In this way, the veto in the Security Council is a much nicer way for a nuclear power to show their discontent about things. This is the place where diplomacy and the threat of force meet in the most pure fashion.

No-First Use: moral or conventional high-ground ?[edit | edit source]

During the Cold War, one side, the USSR, all of a sudden began something of an evolution in nuclear strategy. It was the idea of the moral high ground. It made an open statement to the world: “we will not launch a First Strike.”(which is called a "No-First Use" Commitment) They challenged their adversaries, the Western states, to make the same commitment. “No can do,” they said, “we reserve the right to fire our weapons the moment you rev up your armoured columns.” The slightly more mature among us may remember a song by Sting entitled "Russians" in which the singer says “I Hope the Russians Love their Children Too,” but it was NATO which reserved the right to use its nuclear weapons whenever the muse took them. Still, we have to remember that nuclear policy is about the balance between credible threat and the actual use of force; the Soviets had enough conventional power to overwhelm Europe completely. The only way for NATO to counteract this preponderance of conventional arms was to reserve the right to nuke the communists, either pre-emptively or by means of reprisals. The Soviets, for their part, were no more the doves than the Europeans: they knew they had the preponderance of conventional power and would likely have rolled over Europe in the absence of such a nuclear threat. In true Realist policy, there is no right or wrong, only effectiveness and ineffectiveness. Grand Strategy is policy. Nuclear Strategy is as close to Grand Strategy as Military Strategy can be.

New nuclear powers?[edit | edit source]

Since the first five nuclear powers are members of the Security Council, what is to be done with India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel? If they are added to the Council, with veto power, almost nothing will be passed by that body. Statements by Indian and Pakistani military leaders suggest they do not share the apocalyptic view of the use of nuclear weapons that the western powers do. This may be due to the fact that their weapons are smaller and shorter ranged than US and Russian weapons, i.e., more tactical.

Project[edit | edit source]

Briefly introduce the project(s) and how they fit with the learning material. Give any tips on the projects that need to be stated prior to opening the project (especially if the contents are supposed to be a bit of a surprise)

Denouement[edit | edit source]

This will detail what has been learned and encourage you to add feedback to this page from your own experiences from the project.

See also[edit | edit source]

From the School of Strategic Studies[edit | edit source]

Major References[edit | edit source]

  • Brodie Bernard (1959), Strategy in the Nuclear Age. New York: Princeton University Press.
  • Freedman Lawrence (2003), The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. London:Palgrave (3rd ed.).

(to be continued)