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The Bush administration’s nuclear strategy : the ’New Triad,’ counterproliferation doctrine, and asymmetrical deterrence McDonough, David Stephen


This thesis examines the current Bush administration's nuclear weapons strategy. It argues that the current U.S. strategy is based on the concept of asymmetrical deterrence against 'rogue states' that, rather than having a comparable or even minimal nuclear arsenal, have or are developing nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons. This form of asymmetrical deterrence can therefore be seen as comparable to the U.S. deterrent posture in the 1940's to 1960's against the Soviet Union, and contrasted with the symmetrical deterrent posture reflected in the context of mutually assured destruction (MAD). In addition, this paper offers some preliminary conclusions on the problems associated with this posture, specifically with regard to the non-proliferation regime and the symmetrical U.S. deterrent posture directed towards Russia and China. Rather than a new strategy, asymmetrical deterrence has been the de facto U.S. policy of the post-Cold War period. This strategy changes the calculus of deterrence by expanding U.S. nuclear strategy to incorporate conventional counter-proliferation elements such as conventional strike options, preventive war and missile defense. This development is largely due to the changing U.S. threat perception towards rogue states, which have since replaced the Soviet Union as the most significant strategic threat facing the United States. While a de facto policy throughout the post-Cold War period, it has attained a pre-eminent status under the Bush administration. This has been most explicitly reflected in the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report, which outlines the strategic concept of the New Triad consisting of offensive strike systems (nuclear and non-nuclear), defenses (active and passive), and a revitalized defense infrastructure.

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