The SDI in US Nuclear Strategy • Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the theoretical foundation of the US-USSR nuclear relationship • Anything that hindered the opponent from inflicting assured destruction was considered “destabilizing” • This premise was used by opponents of missile defenses
Arguments against MAD • Hoffman claims that MAD should not be the sole guiding principle, since US-USSR relations are far more complicated • Military competition around Soviet efforts at peripheral expansion and American efforts to contain them • For instance, according to Hoffman it is unclear whether we would really retaliate if the USSR invaded Europe; mutual destruction was not necessarily “assured” • The USSR concentrated on its conventional forces in preparation for a potential quick victory in Europe despite MAD • Furthermore, the USSR maintained ballistic missile defenses, air defenses, and shelters for political leaders • Furthermore, MAD did not fit the domestic political structure of the United States. The perverted logic was not really acceptable to the American public, and the USSR even had reason to believe that the West would not be able to keep up qualitatively
SDI and MAD • “Assured destruction” implies that only offensive weapons can make MAD stable; defenses are only useful if they protect a nation’s second strike capability • However, defenses that reduce civilian casualties are inherently destabilizing • Even if one percent of offensive warheads were to get through an SDI system, the US would have to survive one hundred nuclear attacks • According to MAD doctrine, defense have to be “leakproof” to be useful; semi-effective defenses are the worst • Hoffman claims that missile defenses should be analyzed by how they deter preemptive attack and reduce collateral damage
Impact of Defenses on the Nuclear Balance • Less than comprehensive defenses will raise the offensive force requirements • Dual use missile defenses make economizing offensive forces for maximum effectiveness difficult • Since the attacker must assume that the defender has assigned the majority of its defensive forces to each target, the defense has the strategic advantage • Given this premise, missile defenses may aid deterrence, since it deceases the attacker’s preemptive advantage.
Questions • Is MAD an overly simplistic governing theory as Hoffman claims it is? • Do partially effective defenses undermine deterrence or enhance it? • Are missile defenses irrelevant in the context of a full scale attack?