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The Logic of American Nuclear StrategyWhy Strategic Superiority Matters$
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Matthew Kroenig

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190849184

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190849184.001.0001

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Strategic Stability

Strategic Stability

Chapter:
(p.127) 6 Strategic Stability
Source:
The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy
Author(s):

Matthew Kroenig

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190849184.003.0007

This chapter examines the relationship between nuclear superiority and strategic stability. Many nuclear deterrence theorists and policy advocates have argued for decades that nuclear superiority has a glaring downside: it increases the risk of nuclear war. This chapter analyzes this question in detail and finds that this conventional wisdom is incorrect. It argues that nuclear superiority likely contributes to greater levels of strategic stability. Moreover, it maintains that traditional arguments about strategic stability fail to differentiate between good instability, that which favors US interests, and bad instability, which works to the disadvantage of Washington and its allies. When this distinction is taken into account, we see that US superiority enhances positive instability and dampens negative instability. In short, strategic stability should be listed among the benefits, not the possible costs, of an American nuclear advantage.

Keywords:   nuclear war, strategic stability, nuclear superiority, crisis instability, use ’em or lose ’em, first-strike advantage, mutual vulnerability, nuclear parity, bargaining model of war, imperfect information

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