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Encyclopedia > Mutually assured destruction

Mutually assured destruction (MAD) is the doctrine of military strategy in which a full scale use of nuclear weapons by one of two opposing sides would result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment of strong weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use of the very same weapons. Doctrine, from Latin doctrina, (compare doctor), means a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system. ... A strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. ... The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the epicenter. ... ...

Contents

Theory

The doctrine assumes that each side has enough weaponry to destroy the other side and that either side, if attacked for any reason by the other, would retaliate with equal or greater force. The expected result is an immediate escalation resulting in both combatants' total and assured destruction. It is now generally assumed that the nuclear fallout or nuclear winter would bring about worldwide devastation, though this was not a critical assumption to the theory of MAD. Assured Destruction is a concept sometimes used in game theory and similar discussions to describe a condition where certain behaviors or choices are deterred because they will lead to the imposition by others of overwhelming punitive consequences. ... Fallout is the residual radiation hazard from a nuclear explosion and is named from the fact that it falls out of the atmosphere in to which it is spread during the explosion. ... Nuclear winter is a hypothetical global climate condition that was predicted to be a possible outcome of a large-scale nuclear war. ...


The doctrine further assumes that neither side will dare to launch a first strike because the other side will launch on warning (also called fail-deadly) or with secondary forces (second strike) resulting in the destruction of both parties. The payoff of this doctrine is expected to be a tense but stable peace. In nuclear strategy, first strike capability is a countrys ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation. ... Fail Deadly is a concept in military strategy which encourages deterrence by guaranteeing an immediate, automatic and overwhelming response to an attack. ... In nuclear strategy, second strike capability is a countrys assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retalliation against the attacker. ...


The primary application of this doctrine occurred during the Cold War (1950s to 1990s) in which MAD was seen as helping to prevent any direct full-scale conflicts between the two power blocks while they engaged in smaller proxy wars around the world. It was also responsible for the arms race, as both nations struggled to keep nuclear parity, or at least retain second-strike capability. The Cold War was the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. ... Millennia: 1st millennium - 2nd millennium - 3rd millennium Events and trends The 1950s in Western society was marked with a sharp rise in the economy for the first time in almost 30 years and return to the 1920s-type consumer society built on credit and boom-times, as well as the... Events and trends The 1990s are generally classified as having moved slightly away from the more conservative 1980s, but keeping the same mind-set. ... A proxy war is a war where two powers use third parties as a supplement or a substitute for fighting each other directly. ... An arms race is a competition between two or more countries for military supremacy. ...


Proponents of MAD as part of U.S. and USSR strategic doctrine that believed nuclear war could best be prevented if neither side could expect to survive (as a functioning state) a full scale nuclear exchange. The credibility of the threat being critical to such assurance, each side had to invest substantial capital even if they were not intended for use. In addition, neither side could be expected or allowed to adequately defend itself against the other's nuclear missiles. This led both to the hardening and diversification of nuclear delivery systems (such as nuclear missile bunkers, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear bombers kept at fail-safe points) and to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Nuclear war, or atomic war, is war in which nuclear weapons are used. ... Capital has a number of related meanings in economics, finance and accounting. ... A bunker is a defensive warfare fortification to protect oneself. ... SSBN is the United States Navy Hull classification symbol for a fleet ballistic missile submarine. ... A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground targets, primarily by dropping bombs. ... Safety engineering is used to assure that a life-critical system behaves as needed even when pieces fail. ... The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (or ABM treaty) was a treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against missile-delivered nuclear weapons. ...


This MAD scenario was often known by the euphemism "nuclear deterrence" (The term 'deterrence' was first used in this context after World War II. Prior to that time, its use was limited to juridical terminology). In France, "deterrence" was translated as "dissuasion", and in Russia, it was translated as "terrorization"—a linguistic difference which highlights two particular interpretations of deterrence: one which is basically an extrapolation of rational politics, another which is based on pure emotional fear. These two notions of deterrence, and MAD, were often used interchangeably by both fans and foes of the doctrine, despite their apparent paradoxical intent. A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word or phrase it replaces. ...


History

Early Cold War

Many historians argue that the United States began the Cold War by ending World War II with the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Four years later, on August 9, 1949, the Soviet Union developed its own nuclear weapons. At the time, both sides lacked the means to effectively use nuclear devices against each other. However, with the development of aircraft like the B-36 Peacemaker, both sides were gaining more ability to deliver nuclear weapons into the interior of the opposing country. The official nuclear policy of the United States was one of "massive retaliation", as coined by President Eisenhower, which called for massive nuclear attack against the Soviet Union if they were to invade Europe. Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km (over 11 miles) into the air. ... Citizens of Hiroshima walk by the A-Bomb Dome, the closest building to have survived the citys atomic bombing. ... August 9 is the 221st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (222nd in leap years), with 144 days remaining. ... 1949 is a common year starting on Saturday. ... The Convair B-36 (officially named the Peacemaker, but the name is rarely used) was an American strategic bomber aircraft, and the largest bomber ever flown by the United States. ... Order: 34th President Vice President: Richard Nixon Term of office: January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961 Preceded by: Harry S. Truman Succeeded by: John F. Kennedy Date of birth: October 14, 1890 Place of birth: Denison, Texas Date of death: March 28, 1969 Place of death: Washington, D.C. First...


It was only with the advent of ballistic missile submarines, starting with the George Washington class submarine in 1959, that a survivable nuclear force became possible and second strike capability credible. This was not fully understood until the 1960s when the strategy of mutually assured destruction was first fully described, largely by United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The George Washington class of United States Navy submarine were the first ballistic missile submarines in the world. ... 1959 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... In engineering, survivability is the quantified ability of a system, subsystem, equipment, process, or procedure to continue to function during and after a natural or man-made disturbance; nuclear electromagnetic pulse from the detonation of a nuclear weapon. ... This article provides extensive lists of events and significant personalities of the 1960s. ... Robert McNamara in 1964 Robert Strange McNamara (born June 9, 1916), American businessman and politician, was arguably the greatest Defense Secretary in US History. ...


In McNamara's formulation, MAD meant that nuclear nations either had first strike or second strike capability. A nation with first strike capability would be able to destroy the entire nuclear arsenal of another nation and thus prevent any nuclear retaliation. Second strike capability indicated that a nation could promise to respond to a nuclear attack with enough force to make such a first attack highly undesirable. According to McNamara, the arms race was in part an attempt to make sure that no nation gained first strike capability.


An early form of second strike capability had already been provided by the use of continual patrols of nuclear-equipped bombers, with a fixed number of planes always in the air (and therefore untouchable by a first strike) at any given time. The use of this tactic was reduced however, by the high logistic difficulty of keeping enough planes active at all times, and the rapidly growing role of ICBMs vs. bombers (which might be shot down by air defenses before reaching their targets). A Minuteman III missile soars after a test launch. ...


Ballistic missile submarines established a second strike capability through their stealth and by the number fielded by each Cold War adversary - it was highly unlikely that all of them could be targeted and preemptively destroyed (in contrast to, for example, a missile bunker with a fixed location that could be targeted during a first strike). Given their long range, high survivability and ability to carry many medium- and long-range nuclear missiles, submarines were a credible means for retaliation even after a massive first strike. In engineering, survivability is the quantified ability of a system, subsystem, equipment, process, or procedure to continue to function during and after a natural or man-made disturbance; nuclear electromagnetic pulse from the detonation of a nuclear weapon. ...


During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union truly developed an understanding of the effectiveness of the U.S. ballistic missile submarine forces and work on Soviet ballistic missile submarines began in earnest. For the remainder of the Cold War, although official positions on MAD changed in the United States, the consequences of the second strike from ballistic missile submarines was never in doubt. The Cuban Missile Crisis Gooney was a tense confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. ...


The multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) was another weapons system designed specifically to aid with the MAD nuclear deterrence doctrine. With a MIRV payload, one ICBM could hold many separate warheads. MIRVs were first created by the United States in order to counterbalance Soviet anti-ballistic missile systems around Moscow. Since each defensive missile could only be counted on to destroy one offensive missile, making each offensive missile have, for example, three warheads (as with early MIRV systems) meant that three times as many defensive missiles were needed for each offensive missile. This made defending against missile attacks more costly and difficult. One of the largest U.S. MIRVed missiles, the LG-118A Peacekeeper, could hold up to 10 warheads, each with a yield of around 300 kilotons. The multiple warheads made defense untenable with the technology available, leaving only the threat of retaliatory attack as a viable defensive option. A multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, or MIRV, is one of a collection of nuclear weapons carried on a single intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM). ... A Minuteman III missile soars after a test launch. ... Test launch of a Peacekeeper ICBM by the 576 Flight Test Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, CA (USAF) The LGM-118A Peacekeeper is a land-based ICBM deployed by the United States starting in 1986. ... A megaton or megatonne is a unit of mass equal to 1,000,000 metric tons, i. ...


In the event of a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe, NATO planned to use tactical nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union countered this threat by issuing a statement that any use of nuclear weapons against Soviet forces, tactical or otherwise, was grounds for a full-scale Soviet retaliatory strike. In effect, if the Soviet Union invaded Europe, the United States would stop the offensive with tactical nuclear weapons. Then, the Soviet Union would respond with a full-scale nuclear strike on the United States. The United States would respond with a full scale nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. As such, it was generally assumed that any combat in Europe would end with apocalyptic conclusions. The term apocalypse was introduced by F. Lücke (1832) as a description of the New Testament Book of Revelation. ...


Late Cold War

The original doctrine of U.S. MAD was modified on July 25, 1980 with U.S. President Jimmy Carter's adoption of countervailing strategy with Presidential Directive 59. According to its architect, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, "countervailing strategy" stressed that the planned response to a Soviet attack was no longer to bomb Russian population centers and cities primarily, but first to kill the Soviet leadership, then attack military targets, in the hope of a Russian surrender before total destruction of the USSR (and the USA). This modified version of MAD was seen as a winnable nuclear war, while still maintaining the possibility of assured destruction for at least one party. This policy was further developed by the Reagan Administration with the announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative (known derisively as "Star Wars"), the goal of which was to develop space-based technology to destroy Russian missiles before they reached the USA. July 25 is the 206th day (207th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 159 days remaining. ... 1980 is a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... Order: 39th President Vice President: Walter Mondale Term of office: January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981 Preceded by: Gerald Ford Succeeded by: Ronald Reagan Date of birth: October 1, 1924 Place of birth: Plains, Georgia First Lady: Rosalynn Carter Political party: Democratic James Earl Jimmy Carter, Jr. ... Presidential directives are a form of executive order issued by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the National Security Council. ... Harold Brown is the name of several notable people: Harold P. Brown, inventor of the electric chair, a form of capital punishment used in the United States as a predecessor of the fatal injection. ... Order: 40th President Vice President: George H.W. Bush Term of office: 21 January 1981 – 20 January 1989 Preceded by: Jimmy Carter Succeeded by: George H.W. Bush Date of birth: 6 February 1911 Place of birth: Tampico, Illinois Date of death: 5 June 2004 Place of death: Bel-Air... For the computer game, see S.D.I. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a system proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear missiles. ... For the missile defense program, see Strategic Defense Initiative. ...


SDI was criticized by both the Soviets and many of America's allies (including Margaret Thatcher) because, were it ever operational and effective, it would have undermined the "assured destruction" required for MAD. If America had a guarantee against Soviet nuclear attacks, its critics argued, it would have first strike capability which would have been a politically and militarily destabilizing position. Critics further argued that it could trigger a new arms race, this time to develop countermeasures for SDI. Despite its promise of nuclear safety, SDI was described by many of its critics (including Soviet nuclear physicist and later peace activist Andrei Sakharov) as being even more dangerous than MAD because of these political implications. The Right Honourable Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG OM PC FRS, born Margaret Hilda Roberts, (born 13 October 1925) is a British stateswoman and was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, the only woman as of 2005 to serve in that position. ... Andrei Sakharov, 1943 Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (Андре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов, May 21, 1921 – December 14, 1989), was a Soviet-Russian nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. ...


Post Cold War

The fall of the Soviet Union has reduced tensions between Russia and the United States and between the United States and China. Although the administration of George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in June 2002, the limited national missile defense system proposed by the Bush administration was designed to prevent nuclear blackmail by a state with limited nuclear capability and is not planned to alter the nuclear posture between Russia and the United States. Russia and the United States still tacitly hold to the principles of MAD. George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and the 43rd and current president of the United States. ... Nuclear blackmail is a term used in nuclear strategy to refer to the threat of use of nuclear weapons to force an adversary to perform some action. ...


MAD as official policy

Whether or not MAD was ever the accepted doctrine of the United States military during the Cold War is largely a matter of interpretation. The term MAD was not coined by the military but was, however, based on the policy of "Assured Destruction" advocated by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the 1960s. The U.S. Air Force, for example, has retrospectively contended that it never advocated MAD and that this form of deterrence was seen as one of a number of options in U.S. nuclear policy. Former officers have emphasized that they never felt as limited by the logic of MAD (and were prepared to use nuclear weapons in smaller scale situations than "Assured Destruction" allowed), and didn't deliberately target civilian cities (though they acknowledge that the result of a "purely military" attack would certainly devastate the cities as well). The Cold War was the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. ... The United States Secretary of Defense is the head of the United States Department of Defense, concerned with the armed services and The Secretary is a member of the Presidents Cabinet. ... Robert McNamara in 1964 Robert Strange McNamara (born June 9, 1916), American businessman and politician, was arguably the greatest Defense Secretary in US History. ... This article provides extensive lists of events and significant personalities of the 1960s. ...


MAD was certainly implied in a number of U.S. policies, though, and certainly used in the political rhetoric of leaders in both the USA and the USSR during many periods of the Cold War. The differences between MAD and a general theory of deterrence, the latter of which was certainly embodied in both rhetoric and technological decisions made by the U.S. and USSR, varies more along the lines of strictness of interpretation than they do categorical definitions.


See also

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a journal concerned with global security issues, especially related to the dangers posed nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. ... The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clockface maintained since 1947 by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. ... Nuclear utilization target selection (NUTS) was a strategy developed during the Cold War as a means for one world nuclear power to achieve victory against another world nuclear power. ... The Cold War was the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. ... Moral equivalence is a term used in political debate, usually to negatively characterize the humanist claim that there can be no moral or ethical hierarchy decided between two sides in a conflict, nor in the actions or tactics of the two sides. ... Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis is an analysis, by political scientist Graham Allison, of the Cuban Missile Crisis. ... Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that uses models to study interactions with formalised incentive structures (games). It has applications in a variety of fields, including economics, international relations, evolutionary biology, political science, and military strategy. ... Herman Kahn Herman Kahn (1922-1983) was a military strategist and systems theorist employed at RAND Corporation, USA. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, he devised several strategies for nuclear warfare during the Cold War using applications of game theory, and had earlier played a role in the development of the... Nuclear disarmament is the proposed undeployment and dismantling of nuclear weapons particularly those the United States and the Soviet Union (later Russia) targeted on each other. ... Nuclear strategy involves the development of doctrines and strategies for the production and use of nuclear weapons. ... Single Integrated Operational Plan (or SIOP) is a blueprint that tells how American nuclear weapons would be used in the event of war. ... Alternate meanings: See RAND (disambiguation) The RAND Corporation is an American think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the U.S. military. ... Weapons of Mass Destruction is also the name of rapper Xzibits 2004 album. ... This article is about an episode of Star Trek. ... A suicide weapon is a weapon that kills its user in the process of killing its intended target. ... The idea that nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles could be shot down by defensive missiles has been a prominent feature of United Stated defence thinking since the invention of the ICBM. In the 1970s it was proposed to use defensive nuclear missiles to down incoming nuclear missiles. ... For the hit 1987 single by Depeche Mode, see the album Music for the Masses Film poster for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1964 satirical film directed by Stanley Kubrick. ... 1964 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director. ... Red Alert is a 1958 novel by Peter George about nuclear war. ... Peter George (March 24, 1924 - June 11, 1966) was a British author, most famous for the Cold War thriller novel Red Alert. ... Safety engineering is used to assure that a life-critical system behaves as needed even when pieces fail. ... Stanislav Petrov (born c. ...

External link

  • An article critical of the idea of MAD as US policy (http://www.afa.org/magazine/nov2001/1101mad.asp)
  • Herman Kahn's Doomsday Machine (http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/frame2/articles/borg/kahn.html)
  • Excerpts of Gorbachev-Reagan Reykjavik Talks, 1986 (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/22/documents/reykjavik/) (regards SDI as a threat to MAD)
  • Robert McNamara's "Mutural Deterrence" speech from 1962 (http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/Deterrence.shtml)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Mutual assured destruction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2145 words)
Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is the doctrine of military strategy in which a full scale use of nuclear weapons by one of two opposing sides would result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender.
The term MAD was not coined by the military but was, however, based on the policy of "Assured Destruction" advocated by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the 1960s.
MAD was implied in a number of U.S. policies and used in the political rhetoric of leaders in both the USA and the USSR during many periods of the Cold War.
Article about "Mutual assured destruction" in the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004 (1054 words)
Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is the doctrine of a situation in which any use of nuclear weapons by either of two opposing sides would result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender.
MAD was part of U.S. strategic doctrine which believed that nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States could best be prevented if neither side could defend itself against the other's nuclear missiles (see Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty).
MAD's replacement (asymmetric warfare) is designed to take advantage of years of analysis that focussed on finding a concept for stability that did not rely on holding civilian populations hostage.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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