Ambiguity and Deterrence: British Nuclear Strategy, 1945-1964

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Clarendon Press, 1995 - Political Science - 495 pages
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Ambiguity and Deterrence focuses on the role of competing strategic beliefs in the formulation of British nuclear strategy between 1945 and 1964. Based on recently released documents, it is argued that the British approach to nuclear weapons during this formative period was characterized by paradox and ambiguity. The paradox was that while there was a widespread consensus in political and military circles in favour of nuclear deterrence, there were constant disagreements over the requirements of an effective deterrent policy. These disagreements centred on six main questions: whether deterrence was best achieved through "punishment" or "denial"; whether detterence necessitated nuclear superiority; whether preparations had to be made for a long war or a short war; what strategic implications followed from nuclear stalemate; whether limited nuclear wars could be fought without escalation to all-out nuclear war; and whether pre-emption was politically acceptable and militarily necessary. It is argued that the failure of successive governments to provide clear political direction on these issues meant that British nuclear strategy was more ambiguous and much less coherent than is usually supposed.
 

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Contents

The Development of a Deterrence Frame
34
The Radical Review and Interservice Rivalries
152
Thermonuclear Weapons and British Strategy
178
Eden and the Policy of Strategic Expediency
206
Independence and Interdependence 19571958
241
Technological Change and Strategic Uncertainty
278
The Impact of Nassau on British Nuclear
319
Conclusion
359
Report by the Chiefs
396
Report
403
Chiefs of Staff CommitteeAir Defence
415
AngloAmerican Nuclear Strike Plans
431
Chronology
449
Key Personnel
461
Index
487
Copyright

Appendices Excerpts from Letters and Documents
390

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About the author (1995)

John Baylis is a Professor of International Politics at University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

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