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Conventional Deterrence and Conventional Retaliation i nEurope Samuel P. Huntington F o r a quarter century the slow but continuing trend in NATO strategy-and in thinking about NATO strategy-has been from emphasis on nuclear deterrence to emphasis on conventional deterrence. When it became clear that the famous Lisbon force goals of 1952, embodied in MC 14/1, had no hope of realization, NATO strategy appropriately stressed the deterrent role of nuclear weapons, in terms of both massive retaliation by U.S. strategic forces and the early use of tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe. This strategy was codified in MC 14/2 in 1957. Shortly thereafter, however, the development of Soviet strategic nuclear capabilitiesand, more particularly, the massive deployment by the Soviets of theater nuclear weapons raised serious questions as to the desirabilityof NATO's relying overwhelminglyon early use of nuclear weapons to deter Soviet attack. In the following years, the emphasis shifted to the need for stronger conventional forces capable of mounting a forward defense of Germany for a period of time and to a strategy of flexibleresponse, in which, if deterrence failed and if conventional defenses did not hold, NATO would have the options of resorting to tactical, theater, and eventually strategic nuclear weapons. In 1967this strategy became official NATO policy in MC 14/3. The past several years have seen increasing support for shifting the deterrent emphasis even further in the conventional direction. This perceived This paper, prepared for a conference at the U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, July 29-30, 1983, will be published in William 0.Staudenmaier and Keith Dunn, eds., Strategy in Transition: Defense and Deterrence in the 1980s. It elaborates in more refined and detailed form arguments which I originally set forth in "The Renewal of Strategy," in Huntington, ed., The Strategic Imperative: New Policies for American Security (Cambridge , Mass.: Ballinger, 1982), pp. 21-32, and in "Broadening the Strategic Focus," in Defense and Consensus: The Domestic Aspects of Western Security, Part Ill, Adelphi Paper No. 184 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1983), pp. 27-32. In a few spots in this essay I have shamelessly plagiarized these earlier writings. I am grateful to Richard K. Betts and Eliot Cohen for their helpful critical comments. Samuel P. Huntington is the Eaton Professor of the Science of Government and Director of the Center for International Affairs, Haruard University. ~ l l f l ~ ~ ~ l ~ 7 f l O J l d scwrify, Winter 1983184(Vol. 8, No. 3) 0162-2889184/030032-25902.5010 Z 1984 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 32 Conventional Deterrence 1 33 need derives, of course, from the facts of strategic parity between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Soviet achievement of substantial predominance in theater nuclear forces, and a continued and, in some respects, enhanced Soviet superiority in conventional forces. In these circumstances, in the event of a successful Soviet conventional advance into Western Europe, how credible would be the threat of a nuclear response? In the face of Soviet superiority at that level, why would NATO resort to theater nuclear weapons, with all the destruction to both sides that would entail? Even more significantly, why would the United States use or even threaten to use its strategic nuclear forces, if that would ensure massive Soviet retaliation against North America? The concerns which DeGaulle articulated (even if he may not have believed them) in the early 1960s had by the early 1980scome to be first believed and then articulated by a broad spectrum of statesmen and strategists. The standard reassurances of the validity of the American nuclear guarantee, as Henry Kissinger put it in 1979, “cannot be true“ and ”it is absurd to base the strategy of the West on the credibility of the threat of mutual suicide.”l Even McGeorge Bundy, who immediately countered Kissinger’s statement with an argument for the continued efficacy of nuclear deterrence in Europe, dramatically abandoned that position three years later.2 Current NATO strategy also has little support among Western publics. In 1981in the four major Western European countries, for instance, overwhelming majorities (66...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 32-56
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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