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Nuclear First Strike

Consequences of a Broken Taboo

George H. Quester

Publication Year: 2006

This provocative and timely work examines various scenarios in which the deployment of nuclear weapons could occur, the probable consequences of such an escalation, the likely world reactions, and the plausible policy ramifications. Rather than projecting the physical damage that would result from nuclear attacks, George H. Quester offers an exploration of the political, psychological, and social aftermath of nuclear conflict. The prospect of nuclear attack—sixty years after atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki—is difficult to confront on many levels. We may avoid the discussion for emotional reasons, for fear of generating a self-confirming hypothesis, or simply because of the general "nuclear taboo." But there are also self-denying propositions to be harnessed here: if the world gives some advance thought to how nuclear weapons might be used again, such attacks may be headed off. If the world avoids nuclear weapons use until the year 2045, it will be able to celebrate one hundred years of nuclear concord. Quester suggests that this may be achieved through the careful consideration of possible nuclear deployment scenarios and their consequences. In this insightful analysis, he provides a starting point for informed and focused reflection and preparation.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

I owe many thanks for help in the writing of this book to two anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for Johns Hopkins University Press, to all the people who got trapped into substantive discussions when they simply asked the innocent question “What are you working on now?” and especially to along series of colleagues and other seminar participants at the University of...

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1 Considering the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Use

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pp. 1-23

As we contemplate the multitude of calamities that might happen in our world, very few seem as dreadful as another use of nuclear weapons in an attack on a city, or anywhere else. Because this prospect is indeed so horrible, relatively few people are ready to focus on it, to consider what would happen next...

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2 Some Scenarios of Nuclear Escalation

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pp. 24-52

Rather than simply striving to see how many different scenarios one can imagine for a new use of nuclear weapons, this book is intended to find some “differences that make a difference.” This chapter will thus begin by grouping the many ways that nuclear weapons could be used into an array of categories that might lead to very different likely reactions by Americans and other...

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3 Likely World Reactions

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pp. 53-73

Having outlined a variety of categories of nuclear escalation scenarios, we turn to speculating about how the world would react to these cases. If only because the scenarios are typically so horrible that no one wants to think about them, such reactions are indeed very difficult to predict. One can hope that the world will be brave and resolute, and also perceptive and responsible, so that...

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4 Likely American Popular Reactions

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pp. 74-89

The probable responses of the American public to a use of nuclear weaponsfall into the same seven categories of scenarios. There are possibilities of ambiguity at various levels of analysis. While an escalation might come in a formthat was a “pleasant surprise,” most of us would expect a great horror and shock, generating a variety of responses....

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5 Appropriate United States Policy Responses

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pp. 90-126

Having outlined a wide range of ways that nuclear weapons could again come into use, a variety of global popular and governmental reactions, and likely American popular reactions, we now suggest appropriate United States policy responses to the scenarios we have described. The discussion will begin with some general observations about what we would hope to see here...

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6 Some Final Observations

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pp. 127-139

A final group of nuclear escalation scenarios might comprise cases in which attributes of the scenarios already described are mixed together in contradictory ways, making more difficult the sorting of priorities for American policy. These cases may run the greatest risk of catching us by surprise....


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pp. 141-155


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pp. 157-159

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889196
E-ISBN-10: 0801889197
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801882852
Print-ISBN-10: 0801882850

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2006