Stimson in the News

No Use is Stronger than No First Use by Michael Krepon

in Program

I salute Women’s Action for New Directions and Woman’s Legislators Lobby for convening women state legislators to lend impetus to the prevention of mushroom clouds on battlefields. They have assembled under the banner of No First Use. No First Use is crucial, because first use will be followed by second use, perhaps very quickly, given how spring-loaded nuclear postures are. Then all hell can break loose.

Whatever issue matters most to you, that issue is imperiled by mushroom clouds. I endorse No First Use, but wonder whether it is the right rallying cry. Please bear with me.

The prevention of battlefield use of nuclear weapons has been the most profound, unacknowledged diplomatic achievement of the Cold War. No one expected success, not even the early conceptualizers of deterrence theory. Deterrence alone didn’t prevent battlefield use because deterrence is dangerous and is subject to breakdowns. Reassurance was as important as deterrence in preventing mushroom clouds, but there were still many close calls.

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