Cover: The Strategic Nuclear Debate

The Strategic Nuclear Debate

Published 1987

by Robert A. Levine


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To analyze the debate over the use and control of nuclear weapons, this report divides the debaters into three groups (the "Extenders," the "Limiters," and the "Disarmers") and defines the two major issues that divide them: (1) whether, in what circumstances, and how nuclear weapons should be used — or threatened — for any purpose other than to deter or defeat use of such weapons against U.S. territory; and (2) how hard to strive for explicit agreements with the Soviet Union to control nuclear weapons. The author suggests that the strategic nuclear debate has changed little since the 1960s in spite of radically changing circumstances, because (1) the premises remain untestable, so it is easy to believe or rationalize anything; (2) nuclear weapons are different and their dangers represent an unprecedented discontinuity in human history; and (3) the Soviet Union remains an adversary of the United States.

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