According to Cold War folklore, nuclear war was un-winnable. That myth is not accurate. Not only is nuclear war winnable, the United States actually won a nuclear war against Japan. Many observers, however, object to this line of reasoning. They believe that using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear opponent is not nuclear war because the opponent cannot return fire with nuclear weapons. But this objection misses the fundamental point – just as long as the opponent does not return nuclear fire, either because they lack the capability or because their weapons are destroyed completely in a splendid first strike, nuclear war can be won. The “fine print” associated with this proposition, however, is that the side contemplating victory has to go nuclear first and must be prepared to “get their hair mussed,” to paraphrase General Buck Turgidson, if things do not unfold as planned.
It is also true that as the situation of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) emerged by the mid-1970s, hopes of limiting damage in an all-out Soviet-American nuclear exchange, not to mention achieving a splendid first strike, faded in policy and academic circles. When both sides possessed a large secure second-strike capability, the difference in the damage suffered between those firing first or second in a nuclear exchange became insignificant, despite the clai
To continue reading, see options above.
The Politics of Weapons Inspections: Assessing WMD Monitoring and Verification Regimes, Nathan E. Busch and Joseph F. Pilat Reviewed by James J. Wirtz
The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention, David A. Lake Reviewed by James J. Wirtz
The Global Village Myth: Distance, War, and the Limits of Power, Patrick Porter Reviewed by James J. Wirtz
The Rise and Fall of Intelligence: An International Security History, Michael Warner Reviewed by James J. Wirtzmore by this author
Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.
The Watergate Briefs
Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilsonview additional issues
Articles | Book reviews
THE PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: EXTENDING THE U.S. UMBRELLA AND INCREASING CHANCES OF WAR
The Greater Good Gathering: Technology, Community, and the Greater Good
February 6–7, 2019
New York, NY
The Greater Good Gathering conference explored the future of public policy and how best to advance the greater good in the 21st century in light of technological innovation, economic disruption, ideological polarization, and governance challenges.MORE ABOUT THIS EVENT VIEW ALL EVENTS
The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.
With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.