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Mutually Assured Destruction Revisited. Strategic Doctrine in Question

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Journal article

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On 3 December 1996, Gen Lee Butler, USAF, Retired, the last commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, stunned a National Public Radio audience by calling for the near-term elimination of all nuclear weapons. General Butler was joined on the rostrum by Gen Andrew J. Goodpaster, the former NATO commander and advisor to a half-dozen presidents during his 70 years of national service. They were there to announce the release of the Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals, a document signed by 63 former flag officers advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons. The signatories read like a Whos Who of cold-war militaries, including such notables as Bernard Rogers, John Galvin, Chuck Horner, Lord Carver, Vladimir Belous, and Alexander Lebed--20 Americans, 18 Russians, and 17 nations in all from every corner of the globe. They were not the first to make such a recommendation, however. As General Good every US president since Dwight Eisenhower has taken a similar position with respect to atomic weapons. But the generals seemed perplexed. Despite the long widespread questions about the utility of atomic weapons, the world was steadily marching along the path towards nuclear proliferation while the perceived window of opportunity brought about by the end of the cold war slipped away. It was as if the lessons of the past 50 years were too hard to swallow and the elimination of nuclear weapons just too hard to do. Other than garnering a few small articles in the national press, their warnings seemed to have little impact. Where the generals erred was in simply challenging the nuclear bombs, rather than the strategy behind the weapons--a strategy oddly known as mutually assured destruction MAD.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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