Wohlstetter, Albert
January 1959
Foreign Affairs;Jan1959, Vol. 37 Issue 2, p211
Academic Journal
The article focuses on the policy of deterrence that has to be adopted in order to discourage the Soviet Union from stock piling nuclear weapons. Because of its crucial role in the Western strategy of defense, one should like to examine the stability of the thermonuclear balance, which, it is generally supposed, would make aggression irrational or even insane. The notion that a carefully planned surprise attack can be checkmated almost effortlessly, that, in short, one may resume our deep pre-sputnik sleep, is wrong and its nearly universal acceptance is terribly dangerous. Though deterrence is not enough in itself, it is vital. There are two principal points. First, deterring general war in both the early and late 1960's will be hard. Second, even if one can deter general war by a strenuous and continuing effort, this will by no means be the whole of a military, much less a foreign policy. Such a policy would not of itself remove the danger of accidental outbreak or limit the damage in case deterrence failed; nor would it be at all adequate for crises on the periphery. A generally useful way of concluding a grim argument of this kind would be to affirm that one has the resources, intelligence and courage to make the correct decisions.


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