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Thinking about a "known unkown"

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In direct contrast to the purgatory of strategic nuclear weapons or the strategic offence, strategic defence has come into its own over the past 19 years. Of course, while it is a technological product of earlier research and development efforts, this is not the strategic defence of the Cold War and Reagan's strategic defense initiative (SDI). Rather, ballistic missile defence as strategic defence reflects two considerations - the new strategic environment of ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation and the manner in which the debate regarding strategic defence unfolded following the announcement of the first post- Cold War US missile defence program - "global protection against limited strikes" - in 1991.3 The former places regional proliferators as a primary strategic threat to the US. The latter concerns the implications of a limited strategic missile defence, primarily designed against proliferators, on the strategic arsenals of the existing nuclear powers. These employ the old Cold War, largely negative, strategic arguments about defence, as most clearly evident in the last of four deployment criteria of the Clinton-era national missile defence program - namely, international stability.4Alongside the technical and cost- related obstacles was a third: defence was simply dangerous and increased the prospects of war between the US and the Soviet Union. In arguably the greatest turnaround in the strategic thinking of the nuclear revolution in military affairs, an actual missile defence to bolster denial and/ or punishment was seen as a threat to the strategic objective of peace. In the language of strategic stability, strategic defences threatened to eliminate the invulnerable retaliatory or second- strike forces that ensured peace in the world of mutual assured destruction. Even a defence incapable of providing an adequate defence against a coordinated first-strike might be sufficient to provide such a defence against an uncoordinated retaliatory strike that wo

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									James Fergusson


Thinking about a
“known unkown”
US strategy and the past, present, and future implications

of strategic defence




Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, strategic considerations about the role and
utility of nuclear weapons—save the issue of proliferation—have fallen off
the political-military agenda. After four US-led wars over the past 19 years,
numerous international peace operations or interventions, the terrible events
of 9/11, three US “quadrennial defense reviews” and two US “nuclear posture
reviews,” the state of affairs concerning nuclear weapons can be boiled down
to two or perhaps three notable dev
								
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