restricted access The Development of Nuclear Strategy
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The Development o f Nuclear Strategy I Bernard Brodie forward almost at once at the beginning of the nuclear age that is still the dominant concept of nuclear strategy-deterrence. It fell to me-few other civilians at the time were interested in military strategy-to publish the first analytical paper on the military implications of nuclear weapons. Entitled “The Atomic Bomb and American Security,” it appeared in the autumn of 1945 as No. 18 of the occasional papers of what was then the Yale Institute for International Studies. In expanded form it was included as two chapters in a book published in the following year under the title The Absolute Weapon,which contained also essays on political implications by four of my Yale colleagues.’ I should like to cite one brief paragraph from that 1946 book, partly because it has recently been quoted by a number of other writers, usually with approval but in one conspicuous instance with strong disapproval : Thus, the first and most vital step in any American security program for the age of atomic bombs is to take measures to guarantee to ourselves in case of attack the possibility of retaliation in kind. The writer in making that statement is not for the moment concerned about who will win the next war in which atomic bombs are used. Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.’ It was obvious then as now that this description of deterrence applied mostly to a war with the only other superpower, the Soviet Union, who did not yet have nuclear weapons but was confidently predicted in the same book to be able ”ro produce them in quantity within a period of five to ten years.’13 Let me mention a few more points in that 1946 essay in order to indicate what any reflective observer of the time would have found more or less self-evident. It stated that among the requirements for deterrence were extraordinary measures 1. Bernard Brodie, ed., The Absolute Weapon (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946). Co-authors were Frederick S. Dunn, Arnold Wolfers, Percy E. Corbett, and William T. R. Fox. 2. Ibid., p. 76. The Brodie chapters comprise pp. 21-110 incl. 3. Ibid., pp. 63-69. This article is based on an address given to the last Plenary Session of the National Conference, Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, University of Chicago. Bernard Brodie is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles. He is a frequent contributor to this journal. I 66 International Security of protection for the retaliatory force so that it might survive a surprise attack, that margins of superiority in nuclear weapons or the means of delivering them might count for little or nothing in a crisis so long as each side had reason to fear the huge devastation of its peoples and territories by the other, that while it was possible that the world might see another major war in which the nuclear bomb is not used, the shadow of that bomb would nevertheless “so govern the strategic and tactical dispositions of either side as to create a wholly novel form of war,”4 and that this latter fact had particular implications for the uses of sea power, the classic functions of which depended on an intact home base and the passage of considerable time. It was also observed that while the idea of deterrence per se was certainly nothing new, being as old as the use of physical force, what was distinctively new was the degree to which it was intolerable that it should fail. On the other hand, one could add that “in no case is the feur of the conseqtiences of atomic bomb attack likely to be Iow,”~ which made it radically different from a past in which governments could, often correctly, anticipate wars that would bring them considerable political benefits while exacting very little in the way of costs. Since 1946 there has been much useful rumination and writing on nuclear strategy and especially on the...


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