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Nuclear Weapons: From the Cold War to the Present. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Air Force Research Institute. Dr. Adam B. Lowther Research Faculty Air Force Research Institute. The Atom Bomb.

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Nuclear weapons from the cold war to the present

Nuclear Weapons: From the Cold War to the Present

The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not

represent the views of the Air Force Research Institute

Dr. Adam B. Lowther

Research Faculty

Air Force Research Institute

The atom bomb
The Atom Bomb

The Manhattan Project (1939-1946)


Video 1 Video 2

Schelling v kahn
Schelling v. Kahn


Counter-force v. Counter-value


  • Deterrence: The prevention from action by fear of the consequences. Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counter-action.—DoD

  • “Deterrence, on the other hand, involves preventing an action that has not yet materialized from occurring in the first place.”—Byman, Waxman, and Larson


  • “This report defines dissuasion as actions taken to increase the target’s perception of the anticipated costs and/or decrease its perception of the likely benefits from developing, expanding, or otherwise undesirable from a US perspective.”—Krepinevich and Martinage

  • “Dissuasion is the ‘flip side’ of the popular recommendation that the U.S. strategic force choices be informed by the expectation that U.S. restraint would inspire opponents’ restraint, a la the action-reaction model. …With dissuasion, the contention is that in some cases active U.S. acquisition policies rather than inaction will discourage opponents from competition…”—Payne


  • “The fear of being captured or killed may serve as a punitive threat, and the expectation of serious operational challenges with the prospect of mission failure may lead an opponent to another course, or to postpone its action until success seems more likely—i.e., deterrence by denial.”—Payne

  • “Denying the target the possibility of achieving benefits can compel abandonment of only those specific interests.”—Pape


  • “The power to hurt.”—Schelling

  • “An expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage.”—Webster


  • “Compellence involves attempts to reverse an action that has already occurred or to otherwise overturn the status quo, such as evicting an aggressor from territory it has just conquered or convincing a proliferating state to abandon its existing nuclear weapons program.”—Byman, Waxman, and Larson

  • “The threat that compels rather than deters often requires that the punishment be administered until the other acts, rather than if he acts.”--Schelling

Shaping model
Shaping Model

Possible Examples

Nuclear Strike


Precision Strike


Public Diplomacy








Active and Passive Defense

Global Strike

Global Situational Awareness

Force Projection

Strategic Communication





Air Refueling and Airlift


Information Operations

Counter air, land, sea, and space

Strategic Attack, Special Operations, Air Refueling


  • The Cold War is over. The United States must reduce and eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

  • Terrorism is the real threat facing the United States, not nuclear war.

  • As long as there are nuclear weapons there is a threat of accidental detonation, miscalculation leading to war, and proliferation.

  • Conventional PGMs can accomplish the same objectives as nuclear weapons.

  • 1,000 is enough.


  • Every President since George H. W. Bush has revised American nuclear weapons policy (START, SORT, de-alerting bombers, etc…)

    • 1991—24,000

    • 2009—5,400

    • 2010—2,200-1,700

  • Terrorism is the most recent threat, but not a threat to sovereignty.

  • There has never EVER been an accidental detonation, nuclear war from miscalculation, or transfer of nuclear weapons.

  • Conventional weapons do not achieve the same psychological effect as nuclear weapons.

  • Nuclear weapons cause their owners to become risk averse, not risk acceptant. (India v. Pakistan)

  • No nuclear powers have ever fought one another.

  • Nuclear weapons are inanimate objects; they have no moral standing.