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The Countervailing Walter slocombe Strategy TThe fundamental— and unchanged—strategic objectiveof the United States is to deter aggression that could lead to nuclear war. To achieve strategic nuclear deterrence, three requirements must be met: First, we must have strategic nuclear forces that can absorb a Soviet first strike and still retaliate with devastating effects. Hence, the need to modern­ ize all three elements of the Triad of strategic forces—air launched cruise missiles for the bomber force, Trident submarines and missiles, and MX to offset the vulnerability of fixed-silo Minuteman ICBMs. Second, we must meet our security requirements and maintain an overall strategic balance at the lowest and most stable levels made possible by our own force planning and by arms control agreements. Hence, the need for SALT II and for continuing the arms control process. Third, we must have a doctrine and plans for the use of our forces (if they are needed) that make clear to the Soviets the hard reality that, by anycourse leading to nuclear war and in any course a nuclear war might take, they could never gain anything amounting to victory on any plausible definition of victory, or gain an advantage that would outweigh the unacceptable price they would have to pay. In recent months, there has been almost unprecedented public interest in and discussion of the third of these three requirements for strategic nuclear stability—our strategy itself. The relationship between our doctrine and the reality of our forces and programs, and the impact of each on deterrence is complex. Clearly forces themselves play the dominant role in perceptions and, therefore, in deterrence. What the Soviets judge we could do, not what we say we would do, has the strongest impact on deterrence. But doctrine is nonetheless important, for it: —Guides our procurement strategy for the acquisition of strategic nuclear forces and the corresponding command, control, communications and in­ telligence systems which support our ability to employ them. The author acknowledges with thanks the assistance of Albert C. Pierce, former Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and Charles Estes, head of the Office of Strategic Policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Walter Slocombe was, at the time that this essay was prepared, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Planning He is now a member of the Washington, D.C law firm of Caphn & Drysdale. International Security, Spring 1981 (Vol. 5, No. 4) 0162-2889/81/020018-10 $02.50/0© 1981 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Strategy and Nuclear Deterrence | 246 —Shapes our operational planning for the use of our forces in war, if nec­ essary. —Impacts on Soviet assessments of how we are capable of using our forces if needed. The U.S. and Soviet Background There has been a long historical evolution of American nuclear strategy. The fundamental premises of our countervailing strategy today are a natural evolution of the conceptual foundations built over a generation by men like Robert McNamara and James Schlesinger. The United States has never—at least since significant numbers of nuclear weapons became available—had a doctrine based simply and solely on reflexive, massive attacks onSoviet cities and population. Much of the current debate over our strategic nuclear forces has been distorted by the misconception that we have, in the past, been following such a doctrine. Though it is true that strategic forces programming was often discussed in terms of ability to destroy urban/industrial targets, previous administrations, going back almost two decades, recognized the inadequacy of a strategic targeting doctrine—a plan for use of weapons if deterrence failed—that would give us too narrow a range of employment options. Similarly, NATO Alliance discussions of nuclear doctrine have rec­ ognized the inadequacy of a pure counter-city attack strategy. The unques­ tioned attainment of strategic parity by the Soviet Union has underscored what was clear long before—that a policy based only on massive retaliation against Soviet cities is an inadequate deterrent for the full spectrum of po­ tential Soviet aggressions, and that it enhances deterrence to have options available that are more differentiated than a massive attack on the full set of economic, military, and control targets. Moreover, because our strategic doctrine, like our strategic forces, is de­ signed to deter the Soviets, not some group of Western analysts, it must take into account and assist in shaping Soviet perspectives. Not only must we believe we have the forces...


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