Nuclear Deterrence and War

Olivier Debouzy

in The Oxford Handbook of War

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199562930
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Nuclear Deterrence and War

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The advent of nuclear weapons changed the very nature of deterrence. The power of these weapons, their short- and longer-term effects, led strategists to consider deterrence in an entirely new light: ‘Thus far’, wrote Bernard Brodie, ‘the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them.’ Herman Kahn, in an early RAND Paper, expressed a similar opinion. Although one may take issue with it, it has become—at least in Western democracies—accepted and widely shared. Besides, the debate has been raging now for sixty-five years about the morality of nuclear deterrence and of avoiding major war at a price that seems to some too high or based on inherently immoral threats. It should be kept in mind that the discussion of the relationship between nuclear deterrence and war cannot but take as its basis the fact that nuclear deterrence has prevented major war for more than a half-century, and that this success alone influences the analysis of the future relevance of nuclear deterrence.

Keywords: nuclear deterrence; war; military establishment; Western democracies; war strategy; conventional war

Article.  11026 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations

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