Advertisement

The Importance of Being First

  • Lawrence Freedman
Part of the Studies in International Security book series (SIS)

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 waraims. There was little point in fighting for total objectives when this would require an unattainable total victory.

Keywords

Europe Assure Defend Stake Concession 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Paul Nitze, ‘Atoms, strategy and policy’, Foreign Affairs, XXXIV:2 (January 1956), pp. 190–1. See also Glenn Snyder, Deterrence and Defense, p. 68: ‘The concepts of “winning” and “losing” have to do with the military or power outcome of the war.... They have nothing to do with the intrinsic costs of damage suffered in the war.’Google Scholar
  2. 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
  3. 3.
    W. D. Puleston, The Influence of Force in Foreign Relations (New York: Van Nostrand, 1955), From extract in US News & World Report (4 February 1955), p. 133.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Col. Jack Nicholas, ‘The element of surprise in modern warfare’, Air University Quarterly Review (Summer 1956), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    T. F. Walkowicz, ‘Counter–Force strategy: how we can exploit America’s atomic advantage’, Air Force Magazine (February 1955), p. 51.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Charles Murphy, Fortune (July 1953). Though accepting the need for a limited air defence effort, Murphy insists that protection against nuclear attack is ‘unattainable and in any case completely impractical, economically and technically’.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Quoted in George E. Lowe, The Age of Deterrence (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1964), pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Colonel Robert Richardson, ‘Do we need unlimited forces for limited war’. Air Force (March 1959).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For example, Lord Tedder in 1947: ‘The most effective defence against air attack is to stop it at source, and in the future it may become the only way; it is certainly the only method of dealing with the rocket. The only decisive air superiority is that established over the enemy country’. Air Power in the War, pp. 44–5.Google Scholar
  10. 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
  11. 13.
    Bernard Brodie, The Reporter (11 October 1954).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age, pp. 270, 278, 311, 397. See James King’s excellent review, ‘Airpower in the missile gap’. World Politics, XII:4 (July 1960), pp. 628–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 15.
    H. Kahn, On Thermonuclear War. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 559–60.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Ibid., p. 32 (emphasis in original).Google Scholar
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 19.
    Albert Wohlstetter, The delicate balance of terror’. Foreign Affairs, XXXVII :2 (January 1959).Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    For example, Kissinger in his 1961 book, Necessity for Choice (New York: Harper & Row): ‘A precondition of deterrence is an invulnerable retaliatory force’ (p. 22).Google Scholar
  19. 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

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations