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Michael W. Jackson A02-92-6779 Warren 11A 19 October 1999
Mutual Assured Destruction: Is it an effective form of deterrence in today's post cold war society?
"Duck and Cover!" is shouted throughout the halls of the school in the Midwest. The students hide under their desks and cover their necks to protect themselves from the nuclear explosion. This was the world of the 1950's elementary school pupil. The threat of an all out nuclear war was a possibility in the collective psyche of all Americans. Society today, however, feels secure in the belief that the threat of nuclear war is not a major concern. The vehicle that has brought about this change is the central dogma of peace in today's society. Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) is the weapon of deterrence from the minds of men that has secured a peace for all time. Has M.A.D. secured peace for all time or is it on a slippery slope into oblivion, and with it the threat of nuclear annihilation will rise from its ashes. The support of M.A.D. is found in the realization of the timetable of an attack, counter value versus counter force theories, and the readiness of the nuclear arsenal. The detractors to this deterrent are development of flexible response theory, 1st strike weapons, and the susceptibility of the nuclear arsenal to computer warfare. MAD is an effective form of deterrence that will secure peace for generations to come. Self-preservation is the definition of support for M.A.D policy founded by John Foster Dulles. This is seen as the common thread that links the three main arguments of
effectiveness: timetable to destruction, counter force versus counter value theory, and readiness of the nuclear arsenal. The elapsed time to impact has greatly decreased in the period from 1945 to present, varying from 12 hours to a matter of 30 minutes (Gay 2627). The civil defense policy of nuclear America has changed greatly in response to the diminished amount of time it takes for a nuclear bomb to hit our shores. The Civil Defense Act of 1950 instated an evacuation plan of major urban areas in which there was a 12-hour period before the B-2 bomber would unload its payload. The introduction of Sputnik was a shock to the security of the free world. Sputnik displayed the ability of a country to reach the United States in a relatively miniscule amount of time. The introduction of Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM's) now moved civil defense theory into the realm of fallout shelters and a decisive effort to avoid the mass destruction of our society. In 1979, the Crisis Relocation Program was initiated where if a global conflict was imminent the days preceding the war would allow for evacuation of the populated regions or targets (Gay 27). The construction of these theories was not only for safety reasons but to sustain the appearance of a creditable threat. The second issue, counter force versus counter value focuses on the targets of a nuclear bomb. The nuclear age opened the realm of targets to civilians and property i.e. not just military and defense facilities. Counter force is associated with the positioning of nuclear warheads at military facilities. Counter value is the use of warhead positioning to destroy the population and the economic infrastructure of a nation and resources that may become necessary in a post apocalyptic world (Dauber 75). The counter society theory is a factor in the continued success of M.A.D., as it is the duty of the leaders of nations to protect their citizenry to maintain the power they crave. The desire to live and the desire
to maintain power, be it the ability to decide the future of your life or to take your country to the final war is a cautionary tale that keeps the peace. Will the arsenal be prepared for war if a worldwide test ban is proposed and accepted? The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is confident on the readiness of the stockpile and does not see a need for continued testing of nuclear weapons. The issue addressed in the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory report is focused on the realization that we can keep the threat alive during a Low-Threshold Test Ban or Comprehensive Test Ban (R. E. Kidder). The nuclear stability of this nation is well protected and significance is given to the triad defense system that plays an important role in the maintenance of the threat of war (Dauber 34). Triad is the assurance of a three-pronged nuclear arsenal by which all branches of the armed services have nuclear capability. These three threats maintain the security and peace that is inherent in M.A.D. allowing the threat on nuclear war to remain a minimal issue in the minds of the average American. The M.A.D. philosophy however has not survived unscathed by attempts to dissolve its focus: War will kill everyone. The thought of a loss of power within the international realm has lead American Presidents from Nixon to Reagan to pursue a flexible response to a nuclear attack. The predecessor to Star Wars was the Antiballistic Missile (ABM). This missile was the result of a program developed prior to the Reagan years, and was quickly placed off limits by treaties to maintain the threat of M.A.D. The greatest move towards flexible response is seen in the Star Wars program of the Reagan Administration. The purpose of Star Wars was to develop a system in which the U.S. could regain its foothold as the supreme world power. The hope of Reagan was a nuclear umbrella that would destroy any ICBM nuclear threat. The system, however, placed the two superpowers at odds with one another and moved the nation closer to war. The fatal
flaw in the Star Wars program was the inability to test the system without causing a global conflict. In current society, however, tests have begun again for a missile defense system to protect from rouge states. This new player in the nuclear card game is a reason to worry about the security of a world in which a move to prevent the reliability of nuclear weapons may spur a war. The flexible response only opens a door to renewed defense spending and the further creation of weapons of mass destruction. The second response to the M.A.D. dogma is the development of first strike weapons (Schwartz 20-28). The first strike is a term used to describe highly accurate nuclear weapons that have a low yield. These weapons would be able to launch on enemy defenses to disable their nuclear defense before a response would be initiated. The flaw in this policy is that all first strike weapons would have to attack simultaneously to effectively knockout the triad defense structure. First strike development of weapons has lead to great tension among nuclear powers, however the accuracy required to effectively disable a nuclear threat would be impossible. For example even if first strike was to disable 95% of the arsenal the remaining 5% would still be locked on to our nation and have the same ability as the arsenal before first strike (Schwartz 56). The final weakness of M.A.D. is the development of Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) technology that has the ability to disable the computers and circuitry behind the weapons of mass destruction (Gay 98-99). The warfare of the 21st century involves an electronic battlefield that may spawn the development of EMP weapons that will cripple the infrastructure and security of a nuclear response leaving the world unaware of impending doom. M.A.D. is effective in current society but what may lie ahead is the true danger to the stability of peace in the post Cold War period.
The purpose of M.A.D. is to protect society through fear, and it has been and continues to be an effective deterrent. The focus of the future of security, however, does not remain in the realm of the Super Powers, but in the global community in which biological weapons, technological advancements, and newfound vulnerability displays new weaknesses of fear. If it is possible to defeat a nuclear threat, what will keep the world powers from developing expansionistic policies and ultimately war? The answer lies in the future of warfare and the new counter value and counter force initiatives displayed by military powers, i.e. the "new" nuclear weapons. The effectiveness of M.A.D. is clearly represented in the hallowed halls of history, and with this effectiveness, a necessity to maintain global fear is evident.
Works Cited Dauber, Cori Elizabeth. Cold War Analytical Structures and the Post Post-War World. Connecticut: Praeger, 1993. Gay, William, and Michael Pearson. The Nuclear Arms Race. Chicago: American Library Association, 1987. Kidder, R.E. Maintaining the U.S. Stockpile of Nuclear Weapons During a LowThreshold of Comprehensive Test Ban. Livermore, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 1987. Schwartz, William A., and Charles Derber. The Nuclear Seduction: Why the Arms Race Doesn't Matter-and What Does. Los Angeles, California University Press, 1990.
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