Mutually Assured Destruction: in Theory and Practice

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By definition Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is a doctrine of military strategy in which full-scale use of nuclear weapons by both sides would effectively result in the destruction of both side. It is not a complicated concept. An elementary school child could understand that the two biggest kids in the class don't openly brawl because both would suffer unacceptable damage as well as put third parties in the danger of the crossfire. The concept of MAD is not the complicated part; it is everything else that pertains to it that has baffled policy makers and theorists for generations. Mutually Assured Destruction is a complex but precarious balance that dominated the Cold War Era. The stability can easily be disrupted by actions taken by each side's leaders and the political philosophies behind them. Following the Cold War, resolution has been a slow process as citizen groups attempt to end the dependence of nuclear arms in foreign policy, progress in an area the powers have shown reluctance. A few things are of necessity in order for countries to be engaged in mutual deterrence. The first of which is the idea of targeting large civilian centers or planning for a mass amount of civilians to get hurt in the process. This idea is not of recent origin but can be traced back to the dawn of man. It was used in the Civil War during Sherman's March to Sea and later with the German Zeppelin raids in WWII. However, with the creation and employment of the atomic bomb, the act of targeting civilian centers or cities was perfected. Central to the practical use of attacking cities is the idea of cutting off or destroying that, which supplies the enemy's fighting forces. The demoralizing effect is an added that does much to influence the policy of the opposing leaders. Is it ethical to attack the civilians who may not even support the war? Policy makers, as well as those who have carried out these attacks, have pondered this question for centuries. The fact that the entire populations were often part of the war effort is the most cited reason for attacks on cities, evident by General Lee Curtis's justification for attacking the cities during the USSAF's incendiary campaign on Japanese cities. "We were going after military targets. No point in slaughtering civilians for the mere sake of slaughter. Of course, there is a pretty thin veneer in Japan, but the veneer was there. It was there system of dispersal of industry. All you had to do was visit one of those targets after we'd roasted it, and see the ruins of a multitude of tiny house, with a drill press sticking up through the wreckage of every home. The entire population got into the act and worked to make those airplanes or munitions of war… men, women, children. We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and kids when we burned the town. Had to be done." 27 The incendiary campaign was the last step before the U.S. deployed the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its effects were nearly as devastating. It has been noted that due to the incendiary campaign alone the Japanese were likely to surrender soon. With the use of nuclear weapons to target cities, countries must accept that if they are attacked, they will take unacceptable damage. The second aspect of MAD is the necessity of second-strike capability. The enemy is deterred from attacking if he feels there will be an equal or greater retaliation. This "you hit me, I hit you" philosophy is central to preventing a preemptive strike. However, if one country ever achieved first strike capability, or nuclear primacy, the entire theory of MAD would become irrelevant. The country that achieved nuclear primacy would be able to carry out a preemptive strike with such a crippling effect, it would destroy all retaliation forces. Therefore, central to keeping the balance, countries must protect their retaliatory forces. The two fundamental ways of protecting your second strike capability are: hide your retaliation force or defend it....
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