Political Science 1G06 2013 II Lecture 7a: It’s a MAD world
1. What did international security look like in the Cold War?
2. Why did the Cold War stay cold?
3. What role did nuclear weapons play in keeping the cold war cold?
4. What does this imply about nuclear proliferation?
a. Is it a security problem or a security solution?
What was Cold about the Cold War: 1946-1991
- The Cold war was more than just a military standoff between two military and
- Both parties also represented fundamentally different ideological, political,
and economic systems
- It represented a “confrontation between two ways of life”
- It was assumed by most, including strategic planners, that the Cold War would
continue until it reached a tipping point where armed conflict would
ultimately resolve the issue
- Yet it did not
- The question that must be asked is, given all the antagonisms between the two
parties, given their opposition to one another in every area of life, why did a
war between the two sides not break out?
- Nuclear deterrence is a security strategy based upon a simple premise:
- Any invasion directed at the nuclear state or its allies will automatically be
responded to with a devastating nuclear retaliation
- In essence it makes the cost of military conflict too high for it to be rational
- If this logic is extended to a bi-polar system where both parties have access to
nuclear weapons, the net result is that all-out war of any kind becomes less
rather than more likely
- Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is the only outcome that could result
from either side using its weapons against its opponent
- War itself becomes irrational
- For MAD to work certain conditions have to be met:
- A) Rationality
- It is only possible to assume that an aggressive state will be deterred from
aggression if the state itself makes decisions rationally
- B) Capability
- A state has to be capable of responding to an attack with a nuclear response
1 - This means that a state must have a second strike capability: if your
opponent is able to destroy all of your nuclear weapons with its initial assault,
then you will have nothing left to retaliate with
- Because of this, states nee