AUTHORBurr, William
TITLEThe Nixon Administration, the “Horror Strategy,” and the Search for Limited Nuclear Options, 1969-1972: Prelude to the Schlesinger Doctrine
PERIODICAL TITLEJournal of Cold War Studies

This article discusses the attempts made by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon to develop a limited nuclear strike option. Having been briefed on the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), Kissinger and Nixon expressed misgivings about the lack of options available to them for deterrence and warfare, particularly when the contingencies available within SIOP-4 (the most recent version of the SIOP at that time) all called for massive retaliation, resulting in millions of Soviet civilian casualties. The author, William Burr, follows the efforts made by Kissinger, often in opposition to the Pentagon, to draft a limited nuclear option. Those efforts were frustrated for years. Several studies were commissioned, including the nuclear options (NU OPTS) study performed by the Air Force and the RAND Corporation. Finally, Burr reports that in 1971 a review of nuclear targeting was ordered by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. The Foster Panel created new options as subdivisions of the SIOP, and those options became important in the development of the Schlesinger Plan in 1974, named for the Secretary of Defense at that time. Using newly declassified sources to explain more fully many aspects of the process, Burr cogently explains the stages of development of a limited nuclear option.

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