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Thinking About Nuclear WeaponsPrinciples, Problems, Prospects$
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Michael Quinlan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563944.001.0001

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The Tools of Thinking

The Tools of Thinking

Chapter:
(p.13) 2 The Tools of Thinking
Source:
Thinking About Nuclear Weapons
Author(s):

Michael Quinlan (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563944.003.0003

This chapter notes that, beyond 1945, we have no direct evidence at all about the operational use of nuclear weapons and how conflict involving them might develop. This means that we have to rely on concepts not fully validated by experience; and that in turn calls for a degree of intellectual humility in pronouncements about such issues, even though the worldwide effort over sixty years to explore and clarify them, especially in the West, has been impressive. This chapter warns that special care is needed about the handling of metaphors like ‘nuclear threshold’ and ‘escalation’; about terms of art like ‘first use’ and ‘first strike’; about descriptions like ‘strategic’ and ‘tactical’; and about the scope of the concepts of deterrence and dissuasion.

Keywords:   deterrence, dissuasion, escalation, first use, first strike, nuclear threshold

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