restricted access Nuclear Strategy: the Case for a Theoryof Victory
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Nuclear Strategy: Colin s Gray the Case for a Theory of Victory JP or good or ill, or even perhapsfor some of both, 1979 isalmost certain to see the most intensive debate over strategic postural and doctrinal issues since the days of the misprojected missile gap back in 1959-60. SALT II is bringing it all together: the state of the balance, predictions of trends, the relevance (or otherwise) of strategic forces to superpower diplomacy, developments in high technology, Soviet intentions and Soviet performance, and the character of a desirable strategic doctrine. The great SALT II debate, when finally joined, will probably cast as much shadow as light because much of the argumentation will avoid reference to truly fundamental issues. Indeed, a similar problem besets the quality of debate over individual weapon and related program questions (i.e., does the United States need a follow-on [to Minuteman III] ICBM, and if so of what kind?—or, does the United States need a civil defense program?—and so forth). Much of the earnest and even occasionally rather vitriolic debate over SALT, the MX-ICBM, cruise missiles, and the like, is almost purely symp­ tomatic of disagreement over basic strategy—indeed, so much so that if attention were to be focused on the latter, then the generic, though not detailed, solutions to the former problems should follow fairly logically. As a somewhat inelegantaxiom, this author willargue that a defense community which has not really decided what its strategic force posture is for, has no business either engaging in strategic arms control negotiations, or in passing judgment on the merits of individual weapon systems. A Need for Strategy Notwithstanding the popular, and indeed official, nomenclature which clas­ sifies our centrally based nuclear launch systems as strategic, the fact remains that there is an acute deficiency of strategic thinking pertaining to those forces. To many people, apparently, it is not at all self-evident that there are any issues of operational strategy relevant to the so-called strategic nuclear forces. Strategic nuclear war, presumably, is deterred by the prospect of the employment of those forces; while, should such a war actually occur, again presumably, each side executes its largely pre-planned sequence of more and more punishing strike options in its Single Integrated Operational Plan Strategy and Nuclear Deterrence | 24 (SIOP) and then dies with the best grace it can muster. This author has difficulty seeing merit (let alone moral justification) in executing the post­ humous punishment of an adversary's society, possibly to a genocidal level of catastrophic damage, and hence has some difficulty discerning the value of such an option brandished as an intended prewar deterrent.1 Of course, the U.S. Government has not been planning toexecute even a rough facsimile of genocide for many years. But official, and even Presidential, language (and perhaps thinking),2 and war planning, have long been recognized to be somewhat different activities. This author is not confusing post-NSDM 242 nuclear weapon employment policy (NUWEP) guidance with assured de­ struction thinking,3 although he believes that both would prove fatal to the U.S. prospect of success in the event of war. In addition, this author does not accept the argument that U.S. war plans are in good order: the real deficiency lies in the strategic forces that have been acquired to attempt to implement them (though there is considerable merit in that argument). Absurd and murderous though mutual assured destruction (MAD) rea­ soning is to a strategic rationalist, one has to admit that the world, perhaps fortunately, is not ruled by strategic rationalists. Readers should be warned that this author does believe that there is a role for strategy—that is, for the sensible, politically directed application of military power in thermonuclear war. However, it is entirely possible that politicians of all creeds and cultures are, and will be, deterred solely by the undifferentiated prospect of nuclear war—which may be translated as meaning the fear of suffering societal punishment at an unacceptable level. Even if one suspects that the politician, 1 The actual execution of SIOP-IeveI attacks upon Soviet population and economic targets, on the canonical scale advertised in the late 1960s, would be either an act of revenge (and without political purpose), or—as initiative—would likely trigger a Soviet response in kind Assured destruction would leave an adversary's (presumably surviving) political leaders with nothing left to lose Prominent among the political weaknesses of assured destruction reasoning is...