CREATORWohlstetter, Albert
TITLEThe Delicate Balance of Terror

This lengthy, seminal paper by Albert Wohlstetter, a RAND Corporation strategist, influenced U.S. nuclear policy during the Cold War. Written in the late 1950s, it reflects on the nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The author states that while it is assumed that total war is unlikely, he believes the stability of the balance of thermonuclear weapons is precarious and has major implications for U.S. policy. The paper presents the inadequacy as well as the necessity of deterrence. Observing that future deterrence is neither inevitable nor impossible, he addresses the hard choices required to maintain it. The command and control of armed forces, accidental outbreak of war, and disarmament negotiations affect those choices. Wohlstetter considers possible nuclear strategies of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In his conclusion he emphasizes the difficulty of deterring a general war but affirms that it is likely that the U.S. has the resources, intelligence, and courage to make the difficult decisions to maintain nuclear deterrence.

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