The Age of the Cold War, 1945–1991

in Castles, Battles, & Bombs

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226071633
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226071657 | DOI:
The Age of the Cold War, 1945–1991

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On February 13, 1960, a sixty-kiloton atomic explosion at Regane, Algeria, signaled the birth of France's nuclear force. It would become known as the force de frappe, or “strike force.” Regane's impact on the nuclear-strategic world was clouded by uncertainty about how to interpret France's achievement. By the 1960s, the superpowers were capable of destroying each other, and perhaps all life, with the strategic weapons they had developed, and how to use, or prevent the use of nuclear weapons had engaged brilliant thinkers in many countries. Volumes had been written about the two-power Cold War confrontation, but as far as nuclear weapons were concerned, it all remained speculative. This chapter focuses on the force de frappe and the ideas behind it, focusing on the economic principle of substitution. It also suggests how the other five economic principles explored in this book (opportunity cost, expected marginal costs and benefits, diminishing marginal returns, asymmetric information and hidden characteristics, and hidden actions and incentive alignments) might be applied to the case of the force de frappe.

Keywords: Algeria; France; nuclear weapons; Cold War; substitution; force de frappe; strike force; opportunity cost; expected marginal costs and benefits; diminishing marginal returns

Chapter.  18811 words. 

Subjects: Military History

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