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U.S. Nuclear Strategy in the Face of China’s Rise

Published by RealClearDefense

By Bradley A. Thayer

The strategic challenge of the 21st Century for the United States will be for it to maintain its position in international politics in the face of a competitive peer challenge from China.  While this challenge has many facets, one of the most important is the role nuclear strategy plays in allowing the United States to maintain its position.  The founders of U.S. nuclear strategy—in particular, Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter—were quick to discern the value of nuclear weapons and their usefulness for America’s interests.  As these nuclear founders identified, nuclear weapons are used for purposes of deterrence and coercion.  To deter aggression, or to deter escalation within a conflict, the United States must have a counterforce nuclear strategy and nuclear superiority at the tactical, theater, and strategic levels.  In order to coerce, it must possess nuclear superiority in each of these domains as well.  The result of this was strategic stability during the Cold War.

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