2-3: On Nuclear War

This week’s readings focused mainly on the mechanisms and effects of nuclear weapons including specific models on what would occur under different scenarios. For me, one of the most interesting parts of the reading was a passage in the article by Leo Sartori which discussed the “window of vulnerability.” This idea basically states that a Soviet strategic strike on American ICBM silos, targeted at crippling the American response capabilities, would result in:

  1. a large number of civilian deaths,
  2. the destruction of a majority of these missiles, but not bomber and submarine-launched ballistic missiles,
  3. no American retaliatory response due to the fear of escalation.

The most striking part of this theory is that it seems to be contrary to the popular belief of mutually assured destruction since it postulates that the US would not retaliate with their own missiles since this would undoubtedly result in all out nuclear war. If this were the case, then the production of large numbers of missiles no longer serves as a deterrent to war. So the questions then become: which of these theories is more likely? how do these opposing theories affect the way the cold war developed? and how do these theories apply to the nuclear age that we live in now? — Bohao