A Titan missile, part of the American intercontinental ballistic missile deterrent.
"The Quirks of Nuclear Deterrence"
Journal Article, International Relations, volume 24, issue 3, pages 293-312
From 1945 to 1949 the USA was the world's only nuclear power. Although the nuclear arsenal was overestimated both in terms of size and readiness by the US military in its war plans, atom bombs came to be seen as the essential counter to conventional Soviet forces. The USSR constructed its own bombs in turn, and for decades the analysis of nuclear deterrence was almost exclusively concerned with the two superpowers. In the twenty-first century, the nuclear world no longer displays that mirror-image symmetry and can now be viewed as unipolar, regional, multipolar or stateless. Nuclear deterrence that seemed such an established technical reality during the Cold War should be recognized as a psychological construct that depends on threat perception and cultural attitudes, as well as the values, rationality and strength of political leaders who themselves have to mediate between groups with vested economic or military interests. As the number of nuclear weapons states increases, the logic of nuclear deterrence becomes less obvious and it should not be casually invoked as a general security factor without regard to a specific context. Nuclear weapons have become emblems of geopolitical power under the guise of deterrence. We argue that nuclear deterrence is meaningless against extremist terrorists. Our survey of its quirks leads us to believe that nuclear deterrence is a far less foolproof and reliable global security mechanism than many assume.
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