Tag Archives: Hellman

North Korea’s Nuclear Test

A post concerning North Korea’s latest nuclear test is on my new website for the book my wife and I just completed. I’ve included the lead-in here and encourage you to read the whole post on that website. Continue reading

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Poking the Russian Bear and Baiting the Chinese Dragon

In my seminar on “Nuclear Weapons, Risk, and Hope,” I emphasize the need for paying attention to early warning signs before a disaster involving nuclear weapons occurs. For example, in one of my course handouts, I identify six key steps that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and demonstrate how, by July 2008, we had repeated five and a half of those mistakes. Continue reading

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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 8

Logical thinking should determine the size our arsenal. Yet, as we will see below, that number has been determined in a highly irrational manner which “frightened the devil” out of President Eisenhower and continues to be applied today. Continue reading

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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 7

Military officers are trained to fight wars, while the only rational use for nuclear weapons would be to prevent war. Putting nuclear weapons under the command of military officers therefore introduces the risk that logic which applies to conventional weapons will be misapplied to nuclear weapons. General Thomas Power, Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1957 to 1964 appears to have committed exactly that error. Continue reading

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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 6

Drug or alcohol abuse is another potential source of irrationality in nuclear deterrence. This problem has affected a number of top nuclear decision makers, including JFK, Richard Nixon, Boris Yeltsin, and Tony Blair. Continue reading

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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 5

The last two installments in this series dealt with President Nixon’s deliberate, conscious incorporation of irrationality into nuclear deterrence. This installment deals with an unintended risk: Nixon’s suicidal ideation in the final months of his presidency, as Watergate pulled him down. Continue reading

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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 4

The previous installment in this series quoted President Nixon as advocating “unpredictable, even rash” presidential behavior in order to “win another hand” at nuclear poker. He employed exactly that approach during his first year in office in what has become known as the “Madman Nuclear Alert.” Continue reading

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