Cover

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Title, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-x

I became interested in the paradoxes of nuclear strategy during the early 1980s. To a high school student keenly interested in history, news reports of the SS- 20 and Pershing II missile deployments in Eu rope created fascination about a weapon whose existence deterred its use. The two world wars of the twentieth century were filled with technological advances used without restraint. How did nuclear weapons come to be...

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Introduction: Prevail

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pp. 1-7

In November 1958, se nior offi cers of the US Air Force were disappointed in their president.1 In the Zone of the Interior Commanders’ conference at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, a center developing a new generation of weapons intended to strike the USSR with unprecedented speed and power, the agenda was short and the mood dark. The Thor missile launch intended as its “special event” was aborted. The main presentation, by the commander of Air Forces in the Pacific, Gen. Lawrence Kuter, expressed...

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1. Antecedents

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pp. 8-18

The air- atomic concept that drove American air strategy for the two decades after World War II did not spring into being fully formed. Rather, like any complex body of thought, it emerged from several wellsprings. Although the genealogy of airpower ideas can be traced back to antiquity, this chapter’s purpose is more modest. It will show the links between airpower thinking before 1939, subsequent war time experience, and...

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2. Declaration, Action, and the Air-Atomic Strategy

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pp. 19-46

In 1956, Paul Nitze, author of NSC- 68 and former chief planner at the State Department, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs about nuclear strategy, which introduced a useful distinction between two forms of policy. “Declaratory policy,” the public face of nuclear strategy, consists of the nation’s announced nuclear stance. “Action policy” is how a nation actually prepares to carry out nuclear strategy. These policies are distinct, often...

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3. Finding a Place

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pp. 47-76

By 11 October 1949, the B-36 hearings of the House Armed Services Committee had been filling the meeting chamber and headlines for two months. The first phase had featured intense scrutiny of the procurement of the B-36, America’s largest bomber. That aircraft, just entering service after a troubled development process, had been helped— so charged an anonymous document submitted to Republican Congressmen— by corruption...

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4. The Fantastic Compression of Time

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pp. 77-107

The most important change to the air- atomic strategy in the 1950s was the compression of time. The “time factor” forced SAC to act ever more rapidly: defensively so to escape destruction, offensively in order to achieve a meaningful victory. The timescale for decision shrank from months to days to hours. This had uncontrolled, uncontrollable, and unintended consequences. It led to one of the largest and most complex weapons...

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5. To Kill a Nation

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pp. 108-131

In peacetime, the ultimate test of military policy lies in its interaction with national policy. Committed executive opposition can slow, stop, or even reverse the bureaucratic momentum behind military policy. Less vigorous opposition or neutrality leads to slowed movement in the same direction. Strong support at the national level pushes an idea, while suppressing competitors. During the 1950s, the USAF’s transition from early to the...

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6. Stalemate, Finite Deterrence, Polaris, and SIOP-62

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pp. 132-161

The B-36 hearings did not resolve the interser vice rivalry over placing the Air Force within the national security structure and displacing the Navy as the first line of national defense. Although the Air Force and its air- atomic ideas were secure from immediate threat, the other services continued their struggle against it. Some attempts to seize slices of the Air Force mission and bud get, like the fight over tactical airpower, were rooted outside...

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7. New Sheriff in Town

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pp. 162-183

Truman and Eisenhower held different beliefs on the role of atomic weapons in national security. Still, Truman’s NSC- 20 and NSC- 68 left comfortable niches for air- atomic strategy, while Eisenhower’s NSC- 162/2 created an environment in which it flourished. Each administration entered office with distinct views on the role of nuclear weapons and gave the Air Force support ranging from tepid to overwhelming. In 1961, this situation ...

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8. End of an Era

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pp. 184-215

During the one thousand days of the Kennedy administration, the Air Force and administration not only clashed in the realm of strategic concepts, they also interacted with the real world. The collision played out in contemporary crises and future plans. For the first time since 1945, ideas at the national level directly opposed those at the service level. In the past, support or acceptance of Air Force thought produced crisis..

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Conclusion: Survive

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pp. 216-224

The reorientation of general war away from the traditional goal of victory finally split air from atomic strategy.1 Nuclear strategy and operations continued to develop throughout the Cold War, but under civilian direction. Through the 1960s, Assured Destruction remained the focus of US strategy, structuring forces to survive, not to prevail. Although later administrations sought to reinvigorate nuclear operations, most notably through James Schlesinger’s Countervailing doctrine, there never was a return to...

Key to Sources and Abbreviations

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pp. 225-228

Notes

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pp. 229-252

Index

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pp. 253-260