How Nuclear War Might Start

Scenarios from the Early 21st Century

by James Digby, Marc Dean Millot, William Schwabe

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Scenarios are a useful way to make responsible officials think hard about the future. For officials in the Department of Defense, some of these scenarios must consider the actual use of nuclear weapons, so that they will be better prepared to avoid such situations. To encourage breadth in the formulation of games for official purposes, RAND responded to a request from the Director of Net Assessment to create a number of scenarios for the early 21st century in which conflict would occur or be likely and in which due attention would be given to the political and technological conditions that might then be operational. This Note presents a wide range of such scenarios in sketch form. Several of the scenarios assume varying degrees of success for elements of the current Strategic Defense Initiative program, for new applications of stealth technology, for the National Aerospace Plane, for nonnuclear strategic weapons, and for new surveillance techniques. Applications range from battlefield uses to strategic options.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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