The Importance of Being First

  • Lawrence Freedman

Abstract

By the mid-1950s it was already becoming habitual to put the word ‘win’ in quotation marks when using it in connection with nuclear war. Traditional notions of victory and defeat dissolved in the face of the unavoidable level of destruction that even the technical winner would suffer. Every victory would be pyrrhic. Such a view lay behind the efforts of limited war theorists to encourage moderation in war-aims. There was little point in fighting for total objectives when this would require an unattainable total victory.

Keywords

Europe Assure Defend Stake Concession 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    For example John Foster Dulles: ‘Khruschev does not need to be convinced of our good intentions. He knows we are not aggressors and do not threaten the security of the Soviet Union’, quoted in Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 68. The most careful critique of preventive war as a policy can be found in Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age pp. 228–91.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Col. Jack Nicholas, ‘The element of surprise in modern warfare’, Air University Quarterly Review (Summer 1956), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    T. F. Walkowicz, ‘Counter-Force strategy: how we can exploit America’s atomic advantage’, Air Force Magazine (February 1955), p. 51.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Quoted in George E. Lowe, The Age of Deterrence (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1964), pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Colonel Robert Richardson, ‘Do we need unlimited forces for limited war’, Air Force (March 1959).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Quoted in Daniel Yergin, Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State (London: André Deutsch, 1976), p. 478.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    H. Kahn, On Thermonuclear War. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 559–60.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    The story of the strategic bases study is told in Bruce L. R. Smith, The RAND Corporation: Case Study of a Non-profit Advisory Corporation (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 18.
    The Report was published as A. J. Wohlstetter, F. S. Hoffman, R. J. Lutz and H. S. Rowen, Selection and Use of Strategic Air Bases, RAND R-266,1 April 1954(declassified 1962).Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Albert Wohlstetter, ‘The delicate balance of terror’, Foreign Affairs, XXXVII: 2 (January 1959).Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    George F. Kennan, Russia, the Atom and The West (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), pp. 52–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Institute for Strategic Studies 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Freedman

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