Definition: Military theory of nuclear deterrence holding that neither side will attack the other if both sides are guaranteed to be totally destroyed in the conflict. The theory was developed during the Cold War, when the US, USSR and respective allies held nuclear weapons of such number and strength that they were capable of destroying the other side completely and threatened to do so if attacked. Proponents argued that the fear of MAD was the best way to secure peace, rather than threatening a limited nuclear exchange from which one side might hope to survive with an advantage, which might tempt some leaders. For long periods of the Cold War MAD entailed a relative lack of missile defenses so as to guarantee mutual destruction. Examples:
The fear of Mutually Assured Destruction helped prevent direct conflict.
military, US) mutual deterrence between countries possessing nuclear weapons, based on the capacity of each to inflict major damage on the other in response to a first strike -------------------------------------------------
Example Sentences Including 'mutual assured destruction'
MAD, mutual assured destruction , was the name given to this doctrine that was designed to ensure peace. Grenville, J. A. S. The Collins History of the World in the 20th Century Some will point to Cold War history and conclude that a state of mutual assured destruction is better than war. mutual assured destruction
Severe, unavoidable reciprocal damage that superpowers are likely to inflict on each other or their allies in a nuclear war, conceived as the heart of a doctrine of nuclear deterrence.
The Nuclear Doctrine of MAD
When the atom was split, a Pandora's box was opened. This scientific advancement led to the development of the atomic bomb -- humankind had never before possessed such a destructive weapon. The United States was the first to successfully develop the atomic bomb and the first to show the bomb's level of devastation when it unleashed two on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. Other nations scrambled to catch up; in the hands of just one country, this technology could arguably give that country control over the rest of the world. Within eight years, the USSR had its own nuclear weapon -- the hydrogen bomb [source: Murray]. The ideological conflict between capitalism and communism sustained tensions between the U.S. and the USSR, and this prolonged conflict between the nations became known as the Cold War. From 1947 to 1991, the nations built up their nuclear arms, each expanding its arsenal in pace with the other. It was soon clear that both sides had built and stockpiled enough nuclear warheads that the U.S. and USSR could wipe out each other (and the rest of the world) several times over. They had reached nuclear parity, or a state of equally destructive capabilities. As a result, the nuclear strategy doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) emerged in the mid-1960s. This doctrine was based upon the size of the countries' respective nuclear arsenals and their unwillingness to destroy civilization. MAD was unique at the time. Never before had two warring nations held the potential to erase humanity with the entry of a few computer codes and the turn of matching keys. Ironically, it was this powerful potential that guaranteed the world's safety: Nuclear capability was a deterrent against nuclear war. Because the U.S. and the USSR both had enough nuclear missiles to clear each other from the map, neither side could strike first. A first strike guaranteed a retaliatory counterstrike from the other side. So launching an attack would be tantamount to suicide -- the first striking nation could be certain that its people would be annihilated, too. The doctrine of MAD guided both sides toward deterrence of nuclear war. It could never be allowed to break out between the two nations. And it virtually guaranteed no conventional war would, either. Eventually, conventional tactics -- like non-nuclear missiles, tanks...
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