Achieving a Credible Nuclear Deterrent
AIR AND SPACE POWER JOURNAL MAXWELL AFB AL
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Imagine trying to keep a 1957 Chevy running in pristine condition--perhaps not difficult for a classic-car aficionado, but such a vehicle would not be practical for daily commuting. Gen Kevin Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command, points out that the B-61 warhead, designed in the 1950s but still in the US nuclear arsenal, contains vacuum tubes--something he equates to maintaining a 57 Chevy for everyday use. A credible deterrent requires adversaries to believe that 1 the instrument of deterrence will deliver the level of destruction claimed and 2 the entity wielding the instrument would actually employ it. The absence of either belief destroys the deterrents credibility. Over the past two decades, both the reliability of US nuclear weapons and certainty about US political will to employ them have declined therefore, the credibility of US deterrence, ultimately guaranteed by nuclear weapons, has also declined. Furthermore, the United States no longer maintains a sufficient industrial base for these devices--the nuclear weapons complex--to support its nuclear deterrence strategy. This article argues that America should restore the credibility of its nuclear deterrence by designing, testing, producing, and fielding a new nuclear weapon, which would effectively revive a viable nuclear weapons complex and demonstrate political resolve.
- Government and Political Science
- Nuclear Weapons