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"The Commitment Trap: Why the United States Should Not Use Nuclear Threats to Deter Biological and Chemical Weapon Attacks"

"The Commitment Trap: Why the United States Should Not Use Nuclear Threats to Deter Biological and Chemical Weapon Attacks"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 24, issue 4, pages 85-115

Spring 2000

Author: Scott Sagan, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1981-1982; Editorial Board Member, Quarterly Journal: International Security

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Quarterly Journal: International Security

 

ABSTRACT

How should the United States deal with so-called rogue states that threaten to use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. homeland or its troops abroad? Scott Sagan of Stanford University examines Washington's "calculated ambiguity doctrine," which holds that the United States does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological weapons attack. Sagan argues that the risks associated with this doctrine outweigh the benefits. He warns that although the ambiguity doctrine might decrease the likelihood of a chemical or biological attack, it also raises the probability that Washington would feel compelled to use nuclear weapons to respond to such an attack. Sagan concludes that the United States should renounce the nuclear option and instead recommit itself to meeting a chemical or biological attack with overwhelming conventional force.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Sagan, Scott D. "The Commitment Trap: Why the United States Should Not Use Nuclear Threats to Deter Biological and Chemical Weapon Attacks." International Security 24, no. 4 (Spring 2000): 85-115.

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