ASP’s Seyom Brown on Nuclear Deterrence in SURVIVAL

ASP’s Seyom Brown on Nuclear Deterrence in SURVIVAL

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In the December/January issue of SURVIVAL (the journal of the International Institute of Strategic Studies), Dr. Seyom Brown, Adjunct Senior Fellow at ASP, argues that the 2013 guidance to the military on the use of nuclear weapons constitutes a long-overdue rejection of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) paradigm that has structured U.S. nuclear strategies and arms control policies for over 50 years.

Brown argues that the alternative approach, featuring counter-military strategies, is more credible for implementing the U.S. security commitments to faithful adherents of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But it risks destabilizing America’s mutual deterrence relationships and can work against the effort to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. To avoid such destabilizing consequences, Brown contends the military will have to rapidly transfer the principal role of deterring and countering WMD attacks to non-nuclear forces—a more fundamental and difficult-to-manage strategic revolution than may have expected.

Brown writes:

The apparent contradiction between reducing the role of nuclear weapons and reconfirming – even enlarging – the international scope of the US nuclear protective umbrella was not resolved in the administration’s elaborate, 65-page ‘Nuclear Posture Review Report’ presented to Congress in April 2010. Indeed, that document’s effort to explain and synthesise the thinking about nuclear strategy in the White House, the Pentagon, and the Department of State only made the US nuclear posture more confusing.

He continues:

The new guidance, made available to the media on 19 June, the day of Obama’s Berlin address on foreign policy (but not mentioned in his speech), has thus far not received the public attention it deserves. It warrants widespread scrutiny for, if faithfully implemented by the Pentagon, it can finally render obsolete the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) paradigm that has structured US nuclear strategy and arms-control policy for over 50 years; and fresh initiatives will be required to fill the resulting operational and doctrinal gaps.

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