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The Least Miserable Option: The Political Economy of U.S. Nuclear Counterforce, 1949-1989

21 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 23 Aug 2011

Austin Long

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The superpowers' Cold War nuclear arsenals have been frequently mocked as "arsenals of folly" that greatly exceeded the requirements of deterrence. This paper instead demonstrates that the U.S. arsenal was principally driven by the political economy of U.S. military committments to Europe. Ultimately the least bad option for the United States given constraints was to plausibly threaten nuclear first use, which in turn required plausible dmage limitation by destroying Soviet nuclear forces. This paper demonstrates that this logic inexorably drove U.S. nuclear doctrine and posture, and in fact had the desired effect on the Soviet leadership of making nuclear first use seen plausible.

Suggested Citation

Long, Austin, The Least Miserable Option: The Political Economy of U.S. Nuclear Counterforce, 1949-1989 (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900396

Austin Long (Contact Author)

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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