Tag Archives: nuclear posture

Are We Encouraging a Japanese Nuclear Weapons Program?

One of the last things we should do is empower those in Japan who would like to develop their own nuclear weapons. Yet, we are doing that because we have not thought through the long term consequences of our actions. 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 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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How Logical is Nuclear Deterrence? Part 3

President Nixon believed that irrationality played an important role in nuclear deterrence: “If the adversary feels that you are unpredictable, even rash, he will be deterred from pressing you too far. The odds that he will fold will increase and the unpredictable president will win another hand.” [1] As with the first two parts in this series, this thinking overlooks what happens if both sides succumb to such thinking.
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Gen. Cartwright Rethinks Nuclear Arsenal

An article in today’s New York Times quotes a Marine Corps general who had responsibility for overseeing our entire nuclear arsenal as calling for deep cuts and fundamental rethinking of our nuclear posture: Continue reading

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Do US Bases Increase Our National Security?

In my Stanford seminar on “Nuclear Weapons, Risk and Hope,” I have been emphasizing the role that critical thinking can play in defusing the nuclear threat. While reducing the number of weapons and other concrete changes are needed, the most important first step may be to reexamine the assumptions that form the foundation for our worldview, and root out those that are wrong. A recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists applies critical thinking to our network of military bases by asking an important, but little-asked question: “Do US military bases abroad increase or decrease our national security?”Here are some key excerpts from that article: Continue reading

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