"How Much is Enough?": The U.S. Navy and "Finite Deterrence"*

A Moment in Cold War History when the Fundamentals of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Were at Stake

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 275

Edited by William Burr

Posted - May 1, 2009

For more information contact: William Burr- 202/994-7000

Photo of Admiral Arleigh A. Burke (1901-1996), taken 8 July 1955, the month before he became Chief of Naval Operations.  (Naval Historical Center, Photograph Division, Photo #: 80-G-668829) (Thanks to David A. Rosenberg for digital image)

Washington, DC, May 1, 2009 - President Obama's recent call for a "world without nuclear weapons" immediately raised questions of how do you get there, what does deterrence actually require before you get there, and how many nuclear weapons would that involve at each step. Exactly these questions of "how much is enough" were raised fifty years ago in secret debate within the U.S. government, when Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke argued that a small force of mainly nuclear missile-launching Polaris submarines was enough for deterrence. Burke and Navy leaders developed a concept of "finite" or "minimum" deterrence--highly relevant to today's debate--that they believed would make the United States safer because it would dissuade nuclear attacks while removing pressures for a dangerous "hair-trigger" posture.

In early 1960, when Eisenhower's budget director Maurice Stans was told that the U.S. Navy's Polaris missile-launching submarines could "destroy 232 targets, which was sufficient to destroy all of Russia," he asked defense officials, "If POLARIS could do this job, why did we need other … ICBMs, SAC aircraft, and overseas bases?" According to Stans, the answer "he had received ... [was] that was someone else's problem." An electronic briefing book of declassified documents obtained through archival research and published for the first time by the National Security Archive shows how the U.S. Navy, tried to take responsibility for this "problem" by supporting a minimum deterrent force that would threaten a "finite" list of major urban-industrial and command centers in the heart of the Soviet Union.
With their capability to destroy key Soviet targets, Burke believed, the virtually undetectable and invulnerable Polaris submarines could "inflict terrible punishment" and deter Moscow from launching a surprise attack on the United States or its allies. By contrast, Burke saw land-based missile and bombers as vulnerable to attack, which made the U.S.-Soviet nuclear relationship dangerously unstable. While he did not propose eliminating all strategic bombers and ICBMs, he believed that a force of about 40 Polaris submarines (16 missiles each) was a reasonable answer to the question "how much is enough?" Although the Kennedy administration rejected Burke's concept, years later former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara revived it by arguing that 400 nuclear weapons were "enough" to deter a Soviet attack.

The Archive's briefing book includes:

▪ A report by Admiral Roy Johnson arguing that the proper basis of deterrence lay in the "assured delivery of rather few weapons" which was "sufficient to inflict terrible punishment." Even "10 delivered weapons would produce a major disaster with fully a quarter as many casualties as the first hundred." (Document 2)

▪ A speech by Arleigh Burke where he argued that Polaris submarines would mitigate the vulnerabilities of strategic forces, but would also "provide time to think in periods of tension" making possible gradual retaliation as well as opportunities for "political coercion, if we like, to gain national objectives more advantageous than simple revenge." (Document 5)

▪ The record of Burke's conversation with the Secretary of the Navy, where, having lost a major bureaucratic conflict over the direction of nuclear targeting, he declared that Air Force leaders were "smart and ruthless ... it's the same way as the Communists; it's exactly the same techniques." (Document 14)
▪ Burke's inside "Dope" newsletter to top Navy commanders where he declared that hair-trigger nuclear response capabilities and preemptive nuclear strategies were "dangerous for any nation" because they could initiate a "a war which would not otherwise occur." (Document 11)

This is the first in a series of electronic briefing books that will document moments during the Cold War when top officials considered radical changes in the U.S. nuclear posture, involving significantly smaller strategic forces. More powerful forces and conflicting policy imperatives defeated these proposals, but they are nonetheless worth revisiting because their proponents raised searching questions about nuclear strategy that were never properly addressed during the Cold War.


"How Much is Enough?": The U.S. Navy and "Finite Deterrence"

Ever since 1945, and especially after when tensions with the former Soviet Union turned into Cold War, United States government officials and outside analysts have considered the question, "How much is enough?" when thinking about appropriate levels for U.S. nuclear forces. Were force levels just right, not large enough, or too large and dangerous to deter possible threats or to support other purposes, such as political coercion or preempting an attack? During the Cold War and since, other nuclear powers have faced similar questions and have come up with a range of answers. China and France, for example, focused more on straightforward deterrence and built relatively small nuclear forces. In contrast, the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which sought preemptive capabilities, produced a total of over 70,000 nuclear warheads as a result of their Cold War arms race.

The Lockheed Aircraft-developed Polaris missile in mid-air during an early test at Cape Canaveral on 24 June 1958 (Location of original photo: National Archives, Still Pictures Division, Record Group 342B, box 329)

In recent years, former high level U.S. officials, some of them Cold War hawks, have taken the discussion in a different direction by raising explicitly the prospect of abolishing nuclear weapons altogether on the grounds that their existence anywhere posed too many dangers in an age of non-state actor terrorism. (Note 1) The goal has now become official policy in light of President Obama's speech at Hradcany Square in Prague on April 5, 2009, where he proclaimed "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." A few days later, in a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's annual conference on nuclear nonproliferation, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg discussed follow-on measures for reducing nuclear arsenals, beginning with a new U.S.-Russian arms reduction agreement.

In this new context, the implementation of a nuclear abolitionist agenda has become deeply policy-relevant. Thus, practical matters such as first steps, including optimum levels of initial cuts and the sizing of transitional nuclear forces, have become germane. The problem of "how much is enough" will need to be settled for the near-term and the longer-term. Moreover, it also seems appropriate to look for a "usable past" and discover moments in recent history when U.S. government officials, from senior commanders to presidents, looked at the possibility of basic changes in the U.S. nuclear posture. This is the first in a series of electronic briefing books that will document moments during the Cold War when top officials considered radical changes in the U.S. nuclear posture involving significantly smaller strategic forces.

More powerful forces and conflicting policy imperatives defeated these proposals, but they are nonetheless worth revisiting because their proponents raised searching questions about nuclear strategy that were never properly addressed during the Cold War. (Note 2)

The Polaris Program and the Origins of Finite Deterrence

The first such occasion was in the late 1950s-early 1960s when the concept of "finite deterrence" (or "minimum deterrence") emerged as an alternative to the Eisenhower administration's emphasis on "massive retaliation." (Note 3) With nuclear weapons reaching their maximum destructiveness and ballistic missiles about to become a central element of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, U.S. presidents would approve the formidable levels of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers that characterized the remaining decades of the Cold War. The pressures for high numbers of weapons were substantial, stemming from the Air Force's standard operating procedure of targeting numerous Soviet military installations ("counterforce"), as well as the exaggerated apprehensions in Washington about a "missile gap" favoring Moscow. Nevertheless, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Arleigh Burke and senior State Department officials rejected Air Force strategy on the grounds that a smaller nuclear force, consisting mainly of Polaris submarine-launched missiles and threatening a "finite" group of Soviet urban-industrial targets, would be enough for the deterrence mission.  For the Navy, a force that could offer devastating retaliation to a Soviet nuclear attack was enough to deter Moscow. A deterrent force based on submarines, proponents argued, would provide more secure, nearly invulnerable, weapons and put policymakers under far less pressure to launch quickly in a crisis than would bombers and ICBMs.

Critically shaping the Navy perspective was the prospect of the Polaris ballistic missile program, which would deploy intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) on nuclear submarines, launching them from below the ocean's surface. When Arleigh Burke initiated the innovative Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program in the mid-1950s, he was interested in a capability that would reduce the U.S.'s dependence on vulnerable fixed-base weapons, such as the Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber force. The conviction that submarine-based IRBMs would be virtually undetectable informed Navy thinking that Polaris could become the U.S.'s chief nuclear deterrent force, supplemented by carrier aircraft and limited numbers of bombers and ICBMs (although some Navy strategists proposed a Navy-only deterrent system). In a line of reasoning developed by the Navy's strategists and others, the Polaris fleet would provide a "finite deterrent" to any threats of nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail by the Soviet Union. A Naval commander, Paul Backus, coined the term "finite deterrence" in a prize-winning paper he published in early 1959. (Note 4)

What makes the Navy's approach so interesting is that it was developing ideas for a limited nuclear force posture during a tense period of the Cold War when a "missile gap" was beginning to preoccupy national leaders. Yet, Navy leaders and like-minded State Department officials were tenacious Cold Warriors who believed that their strategy would enable the United States to prosecute the conflict with Communist states more effectively without some of the dangers posed by alternative postures.

Defense Politics and the Eclipse of Finite Deterrence

If the Navy's finite deterrence strategy had prevailed, the superpower nuclear arms race might have developed in a different way, with a smaller strategic arsenal on the U.S. side, and perhaps a parallel development on the Soviet side. Yet, as confident as Navy leaders were in the validity of their strategic concept, they were operating in an uncongenial political environment.  Ideas of "minimum" or "finite deterrence" lacked enough institutional and political support to make them viable, especially in the tense atmosphere of the late 1950s and early 1960s when pressures were moving in the opposite direction. Burke and his colleagues were developing their ideas in the wake of the "Sputnik" flap and the "missile gap" controversy when many worried that the Soviet Union was going to produce a substantial and threatening ICBM force that could knock out SAC. President Eisenhower, who worried about excessive force levels, nonetheless supported both Polaris and a large Minuteman ICBM force because of his uncertainty about Soviet capabilities and possible U.S. vulnerability.  Influential Democrats, such as former Secretary of the Air Force Sen. Stuart Symington (D-Mo) repeatedly charged that the Eisenhower administration was letting U.S. air power fall behind the Soviets, and when the missile gap controversy emerged, he stepped up the pressure, as did Senator John F. Kennedy, who was positioning himself as a defense hawk for the 1960 presidential campaign. While Symington and Kennedy strongly supported Polaris, they had no interest in constraining SAC's role in nuclear strategy. (Note 5)

The Navy had a powerful adversary in the Air Force, whose leaders sought a large ICBM force to support their expansive and expensive counterforce strategy and because finite deterrence represented an attack on their strategic concepts.  In speeches, Air Force leaders harshly attacked Navy concepts for rejecting "war winning objectives in nuclear war" (see Document 16 below). While the Air Force was not strong enough to get control of the Polaris fleet through a failed bid to centralize control over strategic forces, it won other battles with the Navy, notably in a conflict over organizational mechanisms for creating the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). While the targets that the Navy emphasized for deterrence, major urban-industrial centers, were part of the SIOP, the overwhelming emphasis of the war plan was counterforce, Soviet nuclear threat targets. (Note 6)

Kennedy's attacks on the Republicans and their presidential candidate, Vice President Richard Nixon, over a missile gap, helped him win the presidency. In the first days of the new administration, in January 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara received what turned out to be an all-day briefing on the recently produced Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG)-50 report on the strategic force posture. Completed at the end of the Eisenhower administration, the WSEG-50 study sharply criticized counterforce strategy, but it also found minimum deterrence wanting for not providing a credible enough threat. The oral presentation, however, may have given a better spin on the Navy's strategy and the possibility of basing national deterrence strategy on the Polaris submarine fleet. While the briefing greatly impressed McNamara, an Air Force Project RAND briefing on counterforce strategy that he heard a few days later had an even more important impact. McNamara remained enthusiastic about Polaris and its role in a "controlled response" strategy for later stages of a nuclear war, but Project RAND "no cities/counterforce" concepts would strongly influence his thinking. By contrast, White House science adviser Jerome Wiesner and the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) supported finite deterrence concepts, but their influence was marginal when compared to McNamara's. (Note 7)

Rear Admiral William F. Raborn, USN (left), and Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, examine a cutaway model of the ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598), in July 1959. Raborn was director of the U.S. Navy’s Special Projects Office, which directed research, development, and production of the Polaris submarine. (U.S Navy, Naval Historical Center, Photographic Section, Photo # USN 710496) (Thanks to David A. Rosenberg for digital image)

When Arleigh Burke retired as CNO in the summer of 1961, the most committed supporter of finite deterrence was out of government. That Burke's ideas had no place in the Kennedy administration became evident in the fall of 1961 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara sent a report to President Kennedy explicitly rejecting "finite deterrence" as a plausible strategic posture (although he later changed his mind). Thus, "overkill" levels of bomber, ICBM, and SLBM forces developed during the 1960s and remained substantially uncut until the Cold War had ended.

With proposals for nuclear abolition having more currency than ever (Note 8), the documents on the finite deterrence debate presented below are relevant for present discussions, even though they were produced under the very different circumstances of the Cold War. For a possible transition to a world without nuclear weapons, an alternative force posture is likely to prove necessary because an abolition project will unfold in stages, beginning with significant cuts in force levels by nuclear states. In this connection, a transitional nuclear force on the scale once proposed by Navy planners becomes highly relevant. Whether it consists wholly of a scaled-down version of the "triad" of submarines, bombers, and ICBMs, an all submarine force, or new mix, its creation would require complex calculations, military politics, and probably some Congressional logrolling. But older Navy arguments about the stability and security offered by an SLBM-based deterrent can usefully be taken into account. In any event, to the extent that a new force mix becomes the subject of arms control negotiations with Russia and other nuclear powers, it could involve verification issues that are far more complex than those addressed in past talks. (Note 9)

The limits of "finite deterrence" also have to be considered. With its emphasis on major industrial cities and political control targets, the Navy strategy conflicted with laws of war, namely the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the targeting of civilian population. But the same conflict inhered in the SIOP and its successors, which have posited urban-industrial complexes as a target system. Indeed, while proponents of finite deterrence in the Navy and the State Department acknowledged that their strategy, if implemented, would kill huge numbers of people, they believed that it was less destructive of human life than Air Force counterforce strategy, with its emphasis on high-yield ground-burst weapons. Later, U.S. targeting policy would become more obfuscactory (e.g., targeting "economic recovery" capabilities), but the results would have been mass civilian fatalities. (Note 10)

Continued ambiguity may provide a template for a new force posture, but a recent report by Robert S. Norris (Natural Resources Defense Council), Hans Kristensen and Ivan Oelrich (Federation of American Scientists) suggests a "minimal deterrence" strategy that has potential to minimize civilian casualties while providing a serious threat to adversaries. Rejecting counterforce as massively destructive and destabilizing, they propose an emphasis on major infrastructural targets (e.g., power plants, petroleum refineries, transportation centers) that are "crucial to a nation's modern economy." Destroying such targets with very low-yield nuclear weapons would pose far less threat to human life than current military planning but would nevertheless "guarantee pain if an adversary unwisely attacks the United States or its allies with nuclear weapons." This line of thinking is generally consistent with the emphasis that earlier finite deterrence placed on "essential" targets and deserves further discussion. (Note 11)

More could be usefully learned about finite deterrence and its role in national security politics and policymaking during the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as any efforts by Arleigh Burke to bring his views to civilian and military officials outside of the Navy's ranks. Moreover, some internal discussions of nuclear strategy in Navy papers remain classified. While the Navy has kept Burke's papers closed for many years, perhaps they will some day be available to researchers. Future declassification releases by government agencies may further illuminate this moment when top policymakers contemplated major changes in the U.S. nuclear posture.


Read the Documents

Documents 1A-C: To "Supplant [SAC] in Substantial Measure"

Document 1A: Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans and Policy Admiral Ruthven E. Libby to Chief of Naval Operations, "Guided Missile Sites in the Middle East," 25 January 1957, Top Secret
Document 1B: Vice Chief of Naval Operations Harry Felt to Chief of Naval Operations, "Guided Missile Sites in the Middle East," 31 January 1957, Top Secret
Document 1C: Admiral Libby to Chief of Naval Operations, "Railroad: Running of," 1 February 1957, Top Secret
Source: Washington Navy Yard, U.S. Navy Operational Archives, CNO Double Zero Files 1957, box 12, folder: X-Ordnance, Design, Construction, etc.  

While the Navy was developing the Polaris submarine and missile, a wide-ranging discussion was taking place in the U.S. government about the possibility of installing land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in Europe and elsewhere.   Reacting to an earlier Navy memorandum on a possible IRBM deployment in the Middle East, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Ruthven Libby suggested that was inadvisable because both the Soviets and the Strategic Air Command sought to target and to destroy "every known airfield and all known atomic facilities." Such a targeting strategy  would produce a disaster: "The damage and casualties to each country accruing from the atomic exchange designed primary to eliminate each other's atomic capability is all out of proportion to the purely military objective; and it is generally acknowledged that effective defense against this attack is not possible." Believing that the U.S. strategic posture was becoming dangerously unstable, Libby argued that the "best defense is to remove our  atomic retaliatory capability from fixed bases either in the United States or elsewhere and put it afloat," thereby "eliminat[ing] the military necessity which the Soviets will feel to attack the continental United States" in general war.

Vice CNO Admiral Harry Felt looked askance at this paper, but Libby suggested that there had been some misunderstanding. It was not a matter of "casting envious eyes on the SAC side of the fence," because it was not the Navy that "needs the IRBM; the IRBM needs the Navy." Deploying IRBMs on submarines would enable the Navy to do something better and far more sweeping than superimposing itself on SAC. Using language that would have caused nightmares among Air Force leaders, Libby suggested that ship-borne IRBMs could actually "supplant [SAC capability] in substantial measure." If "we had a substantial number of IRBM submarines deployed … around the Eurasian periphery, we would have a retaliatory capability which would be difficult…for the Soviets to neutralize." Further, "I think the United States would be better advised to channel funds and manpower in this direction rather than to more B-52s, more airfields, more tankers, and more overseas bases in somebody else's front yard." The term "finite deterrence" had yet to be coined, but Libby's emphasis on a retaliatory submarine-based deterrent was heading towards it.

Document 2: "A Stable Stalemate of Mutual Deterrence"
Rear Admiral Roy M. Johnson memo to Distribution List, "Adaptation of the National Military Posture to the Era of Nuclear Parity; a Suggested Navy Position," 3 December 1957, Top Secret
Source: Washington Navy Yard, U.S. Navy Operational Archives, Records of Strategic Plans Division, box 354, 1957 A16-10

The radical concepts that Admiral Libby spelled out in his brief memoranda were fleshed out more thoroughly in a report prepared by Admiral Roy Johnson's Long Range Objectives Group (Op-93) and the Naval Warfare Analysis Group. (Note 12) Rejecting SAC's strategic concepts (as well as preventive war), Navy analysts argued that the proper basis of deterrence lay in the "assured delivery of rather few weapons" which was "sufficient to inflict terrible punishment." Even "10 delivered weapons would produce a major disaster with fully a quarter as many casualties as the first hundred."  Moreover, with deterrence based on invulnerable missile-launching submarines there would be "no premium on striking the first blow" and it would be possible to use strategic forces with "constraint and deliberation." If deterrence failed, such a capability would decrease the "magnitude of the economic and social disaster of general war … and afford a prospect of salvaging at least some national political objectives." The analysts further suggested that the Soviet Union would ultimately develop comparable systems "invulnerable to surprise" which could lead to a "stable stalemate of ‘mutual deterrence.'" This may not be the first use of the term "mutual deterrence," but it may have been a very early use.

Besides laying out the conceptual basis for a new strategy, the report included recommendations to reorient planning, forces, and budgets. Thus, SAC should be "constrained" to move it away from its emphasis on the "initiation" of attack, while the submarine-launched fleet ballistic missile (FBM) program should accelerate, high-yield warheads should play a smaller role in the nuclear stockpile, and conventional forces should be expanded for greater "freedom of action" in Cold War confrontations. For their criticisms of the Air Force's risky force posture, it is worth noting that the authors argue that "Hungary was defaulted primarily for lack of divisions in Europe."  

Document 3: "Make No Wild Claims" on Polaris
CNO Personal No. 35, To: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 5 March 1958, Secret, Excerpt: Item 5 on "Polaris" (pages 13-15), Secret
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter # 33-38 Jan-June 1958
One way that CNO Arleigh Burke kept in touch with his admirals was by sending out bulletins expressing his thinking and knowledge---the inside "dope"—on a range of issues, from budgets to administration, but also strategic assessments. In a set of talking points for use by senior officers when publicly discussing the Polaris system, Burke advised the admirals to avoid "wild claims" because Polaris had yet to be tested as a system. Moreover, admirals should not argue that the Navy wanted to put all the "nation's eggs in one basket for deterrence." Nevertheless, Burke's arguments about Polaris's advantages pointed in that direction by identifying fixed-based systems with provocation, instability, vulnerability, and arms races.
Document 4: "The Air Force Hopes to Kill Our POLARIS program"
CNO Personal No. 36, To: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 2 April 1958, Secret, Excerpt: Item 1 [pp. 7-18] on "Request for Additional DOD Supplemental Funds," Secret ("Flag Officers Only-Hold Closely- Secret")
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter # 33-38 Jan-June 1958

In a report to the admirals on budget developments, Burke provided some of the flavor of inter-service rivalries over nuclear weapons systems. For the Navy, the key items in the proposed add-on to the fiscal year 1959 budget were acceleration of the Polaris program and augmentation of anti-submarine warfare capabilities. With the Secretary of Defense giving the services an opportunity to comment on each other's programs, the Navy found both the Army and the Air Force criticizing Polaris. The Army pointed to its "unproved" feasibility and joined the Air Force in raising questions about Polaris's accuracy and its ability to strike "specific targets." The Air Force also questioned the system's abilities to "maintain an alert on station" status and to "transmit and receive communications while submerged." For its part, the Air Force was pushing the solid-fuel Minuteman ICBM as a successor to the liquid-fuel Atlas and Titan missiles. Burke saw an Air Force design to use Minuteman to "kill" Polaris because it was making "drastic claims about the minimum costs and time scale of completion of MINUTEMAN in comparison with POLARIS."

Document 5: "More Advantageous Than Simple Revenge"
GSB [George S. Brown] to Air Force Chief of Staff Thomas White, 30 March 1959, enclosing "CNO Personal Letter No. 5 to Retired Flag Officers, ‘Summary of Major Strategic Considerations for the 1960-70 Era," 30 July 1958
Source: Library of Congress, Thomas White Papers, box 28, Navy [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

The Navy's new thinking disturbed Air Force leaders like Chief of Staff Thomas White who wanted to make a case against it by finding examples of older Navy language condemning "inhuman and indiscriminate bombing of cities and population." White's assistant (future JCS chairman) George S. Brown could not find any examples, but he did find an unclassified Arleigh Burke statement making the basic case for the Navy's approach. According to Burke, Polaris would mitigate strategic force vulnerabilities, but it would also "provide time to think in periods of tension" making possible gradual retaliation as well as opportunities for "political coercion, if we like, to gain national objectives more advantageous than simple revenge." In addition, "security against surprise …discourages an arms race," which reliance on "the fortress concept" of buried fixed installations would aggravate.

Document 6: A "Finite" List of Targets "Fatal to the Structure of the Soviet Empire"
Gerard C. Smith, director, Policy Planning Staff, to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, "Review of Strategic Concept," 20 January 1959, Top Secret
Source: Record Group 59, Records of Department of State Participation in the Operations Coordinating Board and the National Security Council, 1947-1963, box 95, NSC 5810 [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

State Department Policy Planning Staff director Gerard C. Smith had been working closely with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in trying to develop alternatives to massive retaliation which both believed was becoming less and less credible as the "primary deterrent to all kinds of Communist aggression." In this paper, Smith fleshed out proposals for a minimum deterrence force that he believed was consistent with the direction of Dulles' thinking. But Smith's suggestions for an alternative nuclear strategy met formidable resistance at the Pentagon, although some of his ideas would dovetail with the policies of the Democratic administrations during the 1960s. (Note 13)

Like Navy planners, Smith rejected the Air Force's "counter-force" strategy with its emphasis on targeting "very large-yield" nuclear weapons on Soviet strategic installations. He argued that quick-reacting ICBMs would be elusive targets and that the resulting nuclear explosions and fall-out would kill millions around the world; moreover, budgetary costs were substantial. As an alternative to massive retaliation and a vulnerable force of bombers and missiles, Smith placed "much greater emphasis … on the invulnerability of the force." He suggested striking a "finite" list of targets--"control centers and power bases"—using smaller yield and airburst weapons; damage and fatalities would be large, but not as destructive as a counter-force attack. The U.S. would be striking major political and population centers, which would be "fatal to the structure of [the Soviet] empire."  It would be interesting to know whether Smith chose the word "finite" on his own or whether he had read (or heard about) the Backus paper prior to publication.

Smith did not mention Polaris, but he must have been thinking about submarines and mobile missiles generally when he wrote that "mobility and elusiveness are among the qualities we should emphasize." Those qualities, Smith argued, would have great advantages; not only would they make impractical "a pre-emptive Soviet nuclear attack to disarm us," they would also reduce the "risk of war by misadventure as we would not have to react instantaneously to an ambiguous threat of major Communist aggression." Moreover, a force that directly threatened Soviet "imperial control centers" would be more acceptable to allies than counter-force because of the lessened "danger of severe fall-out effects extending around the world."

Like strategists in the Navy, Smith also assumed that Washington needed credible alternatives to incredible massive nuclear threats; therefore, he supported spending on limited war/flexible response conventional capabilities for more likely contingencies in NATO Europe and the Third World. And like Navy leaders, Smith argued that a new nuclear posture would save money, making it possible to expand conventional forces: "savings resulting from a shift to a smaller nuclear strategic nuclear striking force would offset the increased costs of an effective limited war force." While Eisenhower opposed the changes in the military posture that Smith had in mind, the latter's ideas about conventional forces presaged the "flexible response" approach that emerged during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. (Note 14)
Document 7: "The Finite Deterrent System" versus Launching a "World Holocaust"
Arleigh Burke for All Flag Officers, "Views on Adequacy of U.S. Deterrent/Retaliatory Forces as Related to General and Limited War Capabilities," 4 March 1959, Confidential
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum #44-49 May-June 1959

With this study, "finite deterrence" entered into the CNO's vocabulary. Some of the argument restated points made in earlier documents, such as Burke's letter to retired admirals [document 6] and Smith's memorandum, but the report provided a comprehensive treatment of the Navy's new concepts. Rejecting preventive war or "surprise attack" on Soviet nuclear bases as a strategy—it would "launch a world holocaust"—Burke argued that the United States must chose a "finite" set of targets which would require fewer megatons than counterforce. A "finite deterrence" target system would threaten "the most vulnerable and essential features in Soviet life: … the control structure of their government and the Communist Party and the industrial complex which is the foundation of their national power." That would "mean killing a lot of people" if war came, but like Smith, Burke argued that counterforce relying on ground-burst strikes of high-yield weapons would "result in killing a much larger number of people." While Burke allowed for the importance of "multiple strike systems", the analysis emphasized the value of invulnerable weapons systems "in the years ahead" and the problems associated with air bases and land-based missiles.
Document 8: "Key to Survival in the Nuclear Age is Dispersal"
CNO Personal No. 51, To: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 6 July 1959, Secret, Excerpts: Item on Command and Control of Polaris Submarines [pp. 4-8]
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum #51, 53-54 July-Dec 1959

SAC's commander-in-chief (CINCSAC) Thomas Power's proposal to establish a strategic command that would control the Polaris fleet preoccupied Burke and his colleagues for the following year. While Power argued that better coordination of strategic forces required centralized control, Burke was not going to give up Navy control of Polaris.  As a background source told the old Washington Star, the Air Force "will have to walk over a prostrate Arleigh Burke to get" Polaris. In this CNO "Dope" piece, Burke reviewed the briefing he gave to Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy arguing that the "present unified command structure is entirely adequate and needs no basic changes to handle Polaris." From Burke's perspective, a "single command" could delay retaliation against a Soviet attack: "Strike back capability must be dispersed to more than one Unified Commander just as certainly as the individual striking units must be dispersed."  Burke prevailed to the extent that he kept a naval officer in command of Polaris; the first Polaris boats would be under the control of the Naval officer who was commander-in-chief of both the Atlantic Command (CINCLANT) and Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT). But this was a power-sharing arrangement because the Atlantic Command was a unified command which reported directly to the Joint Chiefs and ultimately the Secretary of Defense. (Note 15)

Document 9: "How Much is Enough"
Arleigh Burke to Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Target Coordination and Associated Problems," 30 September 1959, attached to J.C.S. 2056/143, 22 December 1959, Top Secret, excised copy
Source: National Archives, Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, file: 3205 (17 Aug 59)

Hoping that ongoing studies of national nuclear targeting policy would preserve the Navy's autonomy, Burke intervened in the discussions which led to the creation of the Single Integrated Operational Plan later in 1960 (SIOP). Significant portions of Burke's memorandum remain excised, but he tactfully raised his concerns about Air Force strategy in his discussion of "how much is enough." As long as some of the services were making an "over-estimate of the [attack] effort required" the United States would end up with a "needlessly high number of weapons and delivery forces." To get the right balance, Burke wanted the Joint Chiefs of Staff to "repossess some of their prerogatives" instead of delegating war planning authority to others, especially the SAC leadership.

So that the United States would "prevail in general war," Burke supported the idea of a "diversified threat" to the Soviet Union. Burke asserted that with short warning time and greater missile accuracies, "we can no longer place major reliance upon planes operating from fixed bases" or rely on "fixed missile sites, even though hardened." Cautiously putting across the idea of finite deterrence, he argued that what the United States needed for deterrence was a "retaliatory force that stays alive" and Polaris was a "missile system that can, above all others, stay alive." Later in the paper, he emphasized the security advantages of "returning to an artillery concept" but without "us[ing] United States soil as the artillery base." "Technology provides us with the means for using the oceans as the artillery base." 

Document 10: "A Possible Launch Area [of] Tens of Millions of Square Miles"
CNO Personal No. 54 to: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 24 November 1959, Secret, Excerpts: Item on "SSBN Ultimate Potentials" [pp. 29-31]
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum #51, 53-54 July-Dec 1959

Although classified secret, Burke's piece for his admirals on the Polaris system's potential may have been meant for their use as background for discussing the submarine with members of the public. Believing that the American public needs to be "accurately and truthfully informed" about how it could be defended but also shown that the Navy was "far-sighted," Burke suggested that the Navy should not keep Polaris's "developmental potential" under a bushel. In a set of arguments designed to highlight the superiority of the SSBN [ship submersible-ballistic missile-nuclear powered] over other strategic nuclear systems, Burke declared that as Polaris missiles acquired longer ranges, it would allow the United States to "move its deterrent missile forces many, many miles from land," to "enlarge the possible launch area … to tens of millions of square miles," and assure "beyond any question the invulnerability of the SSBN system."

Document 11: "Dangerous For Any Nation"
CNO to: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 2 February 1960, Secret, Excerpts: Items "Airborne Alert," "Considerations of Preventive War, Preemptive War, and Taking the Initiative," and "Statement on Ballistic Missiles."

Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum Feb-July 1960

Beginning in 1958, the Strategic Air Command began testing the feasibility of the airborne alert concept of flying nuclear-armed B-52s on a continuous basis. As Burke's editorial suggested, he was skeptical of this new program; it could cause excessive wear and tear on B-52s and funding for bombers would disadvantage Polaris and the ICBM programs. But, as his short essays on preventive/preeemptive war and ballistic missiles indicated, what really worried Burke was a "hair trigger" strategic posture. He did not specifically mention the Air Force--the branch of the service most commonly associated with preemptive, first strike,  and rapid reaction strategic capabilities—but Burke believed that such postures were "dangerous for any nation." Not only did preemptive strategies "place too great a dependence upon the reliability and effectiveness of [the] intelligence system," they created a need for quick reacting weapons systems that would help a country "get the jump on the other nation" and "devastate [it[ before it is devastated." The danger, as Burke saw it, was "initiating a war which would not otherwise occur." With survivable and invulnerable forces, such as Polaris, providing "true deterrence" such risks could be minimized. "No hair-trigger decision based on real or fancied intelligence is necessary."

The then on-going discussions of an alleged U.S.-Soviet "missile gap" did not alarm Burke, even if the Soviets "lead us." He believed the U.S.'s world-wide deployment of nuclear strike forces—with SAC and carrier-based forces around the world, as well as nuclear forces in Western Europe—would be able to deter "even the maddest Russian." As he argued, the Soviet leadership has "striven too hard to industrialize Russia to risk its devastation." While the United States could not be complacent because advances in Soviet ICBM accuracy were possible, if it continued to develop "fully mobile" and concealed retaliatory forces, the United States would "provide the enemy with a surprise attack timing and coordination problem of … almost insurmountable proportions."
Document 12: "Someone Else's Problem"
C. A. Haskins, National Security Council staff, "Polaris," 10 February 1960, Top Secret, excised copy
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Files, Subject Series, Department of Defense Subseries, box 2, File: Defense Department Vol. IV, March-April 1960 (folder 3) (Note 16)

This group of excerpts from National Security Council minutes includes a startling comment by Eisenhower's budget director, Maurice Stans (later Richard Nixon's chief fund-raiser as director of Committee to Re-Elect the President). Told that the Polaris missile force could "destroy 232 targets, which was sufficient to destroy all of Russia," he asked defense officials, "If POLARIS could do this job, why did we need other IRBMs or ICBMs, SAC aircraft, and overseas bases?" According to Stans, the answer "he had received … [was] that was someone else's problem." In any event, the Navy estimated that a fleet of about 45 submarines would be enough to threaten the list of Sino-Soviet targets, given that some percentage of them would be at sea, with the rest at home base, coming, or going. By the end of the year, the first Polaris submarine was patrolling North Sea waters in striking range of the Soviet Union.

Document 13: "Set Any Detractors Straight"
CNO to: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, 11 April 1960, Secret Excerpts: Item on "Polaris Missile Speedup"
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum Feb-July 1960

Burke was pleased to report to his commanders that the Polaris testing program was showing good results which in turn had enabled the Navy to recommend accelerating the construction program and augmenting the size of the prospective fleet. Also under consideration at the Pentagon was a proposal to deploy Polaris missiles on surface ships. What really troubled Burke was criticism of the program and he provided the admirals with information to rebut the critics on a number of issues, including missile accuracy and range, warhead power, communications, and submarine vulnerability.
Document 14: "They're Smart and Ruthless … It's the Same Way as the Communists; it's Exactly the Same Techniques"
Admiral Burke's Conversation with Secretary Franke, 12 Aug 60, Top Secret
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archives, Arleigh Burke Papers, SIOP/NSTL Briefing Folder [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

While Burke kept the Polaris out of the hands of a new unified command, he lost the battle over control of strategic targeting policy, a contest which SAC and the Air Force won.  This record of a long conversation between Burke and Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke gives a detailed account of the bureaucratic maneuvering and presidential decisions which gave SAC's commander-in-chief a second hat as director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS) with responsibility for preparing the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). Having proposed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepare the "master target list," which would give the Navy a prominent role in shaping nuclear strategy, Burke believed that the plan for a JSTPS would undercut the JCS's authority. President Eisenhower thought otherwise, agreeing with Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates that there was not enough coordination of targeting and that the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff lacked the capability to prepare a detailed war plan.  Burke told Franke that he would accept the new arrangement and wanted to "make this thing work", but he was plainly disturbed by the prospect of SAC control over the war plan. While the JSTPS would include Navy representatives, including the deputy director, Burke did not think it would make much difference, "like putting a little bug in a piece of plastic … The plastic encases the bug." Gates told Burke that the target list was "going to be small," but the CNO thought it was "going to be a big list." With SAC control, "the number of atomic weapons will be tremendous and they will be the wrong kind of atomic weapons. The number of forces will be tremendous." As it turned out, SIOP-62 embodied the levels of "overkill" that worried Burke, with over 3,200 weapons aimed at over a thousand targets. As far as national strategic planning was concerned, "finite deterrence" was off the table. (Note 17)

Document 15: "Polaris is here, it's proved, it's reliable"
CNO to: Flag and General Officers, Subj: Dope, "Trends and Feelings on Future Army, Navy, and Air Force Programs," 23 December 1960, Secret, Excerpt
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archive, Flag Officers "Dope," CNO Personal Newsletter and Memorandum 23 December 1960

In perhaps his last "Dope" newsletter, Burke reviewed the major Army, Navy, and Air Force weapons systems then under consideration, including the Army's Nike-Zeus anti-ballistic missile program and the Air Force's B-52, B-70, Skybolt, Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman programs.  On Nike-Zeus, he cited the Air Force's criticisms, but nevertheless supported more research and development work, although production should not be undertaken until "effectiveness [is] known." On the Air Force programs, Burke supported Pentagon recommendations for B-52 wings, but he was highly critical of the Skybolt air-launched missile (which was doomed, in any event), the B-70 bomber, and all of the Air Force ICBM programs.  Atlas and Titan he saw, as did others, as vulnerable; Burke recommended curtailing both missiles. While the Air Force wanted over 800 Minutemen by Fiscal Year 1964, Burke saw that as too many because of unproven cost effectiveness and survivability problems; moreover, "a large number of these missiles will draw more ICBMs into the United States." Even if nuclear targeting policy was going in a direction that Burke opposed, he still held his finite deterrent commitment, perhaps believing that Polaris would prove itself and the logic of the case would prevail. Therefore, he recommended "major reliance on systems of high inherent survivability, proven reliability and accuracy." 
Document 16: "Open Strategic Invitation to Acts of Soviet Military Aggression"
Speech by General David A. Burchinal at Air War College, "Joint Planning from a Service Viewpoint," 12 January 1961, Secret
Source: Air Force FOIA release [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

In a lengthy and informative speech to the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Air Force deputy director of plans Lieutenant General David Burchinal gave a presentation on the making of national military strategy and its relationship to military planning and budgeting processes. The speech is especially instructive on the strategic planning process, including the production of the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP), the annual plan for the "employment" of the armed forces for three major contingencies: continued cold war, limited war, or general nuclear war. Burchinal showed how inter-service struggles over budgets, influence, and doctrine shaped military planning and occasioned significant "splits" between the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the doctrinal level, Burchinal emphasized the Air Force's commitment to a counterforce strategy that threatened Soviet military assets, in particular strategic nuclear forces, which he argued were what Moscow found most "unacceptable" to lose.

Explicitly rejecting the concept of finite deterrence, Burchinal implied that the Navy's opposition to counterforce was defeatist: it was the denial of a "war-winning objective in general nuclear war" (p. 26). From the Air Force perspective, by limiting limited targets to urban-industrial areas, finite deterrence was an "open strategic invitation to acts of Soviet military aggression against our allies or in peripheral areas – against which we can do nothing because of strategic inadequacy." Implicitly, Burchinal assumed that the prospect of urban-industrial destruction would not sufficiently deter the Soviets from aggressive political moves toward NATO Europe or third world countries. For first-strike-minded Air Force leaders, what was especially troubling about Navy strategy was that it was useful only for retaliation and that was "not enough." Finite deterrence is "part of a strategy … not a whole strategy." (Note 18)

Documents 17A-C: "Dependable Striking Power"

Document 17A: Memorandum from Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James S. Russell to OP-00 [CNO Burke], enclosing memoranda from Admiral George Miller on "Dependable Striking Power," 24 January 1961, Secret
Document 17B: Memorandum from Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Plans & Policy) to OP-00, "Dependable Striking Power," 2 February 1961, Secret
Document 17 C: Memorandum from Admiral Sharp to Op-60, enclosing memorandum from Rear Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Director, Long Range Objectives Group (Op-93) to Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Plans & Policy), on "Dependable Striking Power," 2 February 1961, Secret
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Operational Archives, Strategic Plans Division (1961), Box 411, 3060 Military Preparation for War (Continental Defense)

In one of the last Navy proposals for a finite deterrence posture, Rear Admiral George Miller, then assigned to the Joint Staff, argued that the new SIOP, with its emphasis on a first-strike contingency, was not adequate for retaliation in the event that "our fixed bases and command control centers had been destroyed." The Navy should develop plans for that situation, he argued, but also a "building program … with the objective of providing, in the next 5-10 years, a more dependable deterrent retaliatory posture for the United States." The current posture of "hair trigger readiness," reliance on vulnerable fixed-base systems, and "provocative intelligence-gathering," Miller argued, "could cause such uneasiness among our enemies as to our real intentions" that they may launch a surprise attack. Therefore, Miller proposed removing "nuclear striking forces from within the United States and [deploying] them in mobile bases over the far reaches of the global uninhabited seas."

Top officials on the CNO's staff, such as Admirals Thomas Moorer and Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, as well as Deputy CNO James Russell, read Miller's paper and agreed with much of it. Yet they saw faulty assumptions (e.g., about basing of U.S. ICBMs) and a lack of realism that would make it necessary to re-work the proposal. Moreover, both Russell and Sharp also believed that Miller's proposal would be seen as "parochial" because, in Sharp's words, it "aimed at providing the Navy with the capability to do the job alone." Observing that "the USAF is too entrenched in aerospace to permit such a radical shift in funding," Moorer suggested a "positive approach" of trying to get along with the other services. The Navy had to keep in mind that the Army and Air Force "also make a significant contribution" even if their forces did not have "the survival potential of forces afloat." 

Document 18: "Virtual Invulnerability to Enemy Action"
Air Force memorandum for the record, "Hearings by the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, Senate Committee on Armed Services, on DOD [Department of Defense] Ballistic Missile Program," 28 July 1961, with cover memo to Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay
Source: Library of Congress, Curtis LeMay Papers, box 153, Chief of Staff Memos [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

Two days before he retired as Chief of Naval Operations, Arleigh Burke, with Secretary of the Navy John Connally, testified before the Senate Arms Service Committee.  In this Air Force record of the testimony, Burke and Connally showed unmistakable self-assurance in their discussion of advantages of Polaris and the disadvantages of competing systems. In keeping with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's stated preference for forces which could "ride out" a nuclear attack, whose survival did not require a "hair trigger response," and could be "applied with deliberation" by national authorities, Connally emphasized Polaris's "freedom from the catastrophic conditions existing on land if an enemy strikes first." Burke expounded on the "unique capabilities of the system and … its virtual invulnerability to enemy action." When Senator Stuart Symington (D-Mo) questioned Polaris's indetectability, Burke flatly responded that Polaris "could not be detected"; further, he "could point to no R&D technique having any promise in this area." The displeasure of Air Force officers in Burke's testimony is evident when they cited Burke's disparagement of silo-based ICBMs and the "presumption that they could not survive in the years to come." In his testimony Burke had "referred to ground shock problems and the fact that such parts as heavy silo doors could be jammed by the impact of nuclear weapons."

Document 19: "Reject the ‘Minimum Deterrence' Extreme"
Memorandum to President Kennedy from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, "Recommended Long Range Nuclear Delivery Forces, 1963-67," 23 September 1961, Top Secret, Excised copy
Source: FOIA release [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

Robert McNamara greatly valued the Polaris system, especially because it could serve as a reserve force to threaten Soviet cities in the event of a Soviet first strike. Therefore, he supported a force of 41 submarines, with 16 missiles each, which coincided with Burke's original estimate. (Note 19) Moreover, early in the administration, McNamara reacted positively to the WSEG briefing suggesting that a Polaris submarine force would be enough for the U.S. deterrence posture. Nevertheless, Air Force/RAND Corporation ideas would have a more powerful influence on his thinking and by the fall of 1961, using a sort of straw-man argument McNamara rejected "minimum deterrence" (see pages 4-5). (Note 20) While he rejected as impractical the first-strike capability sought by the Air Force, McNamara nevertheless saw finite deterrence wanting because it could not threaten "high-priority" military targets in retaliation to a deliberate Soviet attack; that was necessary, to "reduce Soviet power and limit the damage that can be done to us by vulnerable Soviet follow-on forces."  Like Air Force leaders, McNamara believed that finite deterrence could not provide that capability nor was it sufficiently threatening to deter "Soviet aggression against our Allies."

Document 20: "Intolerable Punishment to Any Industrialized Nation"
Memorandum from Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson, "Recommended FY 1966-1970 Programs for Strategic Offensive Forces, Continental Air and Missile Defense Forces, and Civil Defense," 3 December 1964, Top Secret, Excised copy
Source: FOIA release [Also available on Digital National Security Archive, U.S. Nuclear History, 1955-1968]

Rejecting minimum deterrence, McNamara eventually supported a Minuteman force of 1000 ICBMs as a compromise with the Air Force, which had wanted much more.   Nevertheless, several years later, and perhaps remembering the briefing on Polaris, McNamara hinted that a small nuclear force was sufficient for the basic deterrence mission of "assured destruction," which was a term that he and his advisers developed for sizing strategic force levels. In a Draft Presidential Memorandum (DPM) sent to President Johnson in late 1964, McNamara defined an assured destruction force as one that could destroy 25 percent of the Soviet Union's population and more than two-thirds of its industrial capacity. That was a "level of destruction [that] would certainly represent intolerable punishment to any industrialized national and this should serve as an effective deterrent" (p. 4). Several pages later, during a discussion of the "destructive potential of various size U.S. attacks on Soviet cities," McNamara observed that a force of 400 strategic weapons was enough to destroy "nearly 30 percent of the population of the entire nation" and "almost three-fourths of the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union." In other words, a force of 400 was sufficient to achieve the "assured destruction" mission. Doubling the number, to 800, would only produce marginal benefits.

The experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis, among other considerations, may have encouraged McNamara to make this point. When President Kennedy and the "ExCom" learned that the Air Force could not guarantee that a U.S. air strike would destroy all Soviet missiles on Cuba, the prospect that even one missile would survive was enough to deter the United States from taking military action against Cuba. In any event, McNamara drew no explicit policy conclusions from his brief discussion of 400 weapons; he may not have seen 400 as a plausible force level for deterrence because elsewhere in the DPM he supported a "balanced" nuclear force that included some damage limiting capability. Nevertheless, over the years his thinking shifted and by the 1980s, if not earlier, he supported a concept of deterrence that echoed earlier Navy thinking. In 1986, he wrote that "five hundred or fewer warheads" were sufficient for deterrence. Perhaps forgetting his earlier rejection of finite deterrence, McNamara wrote that he had learned, from reading David Rosenberg's work, that "in 1958 and 1959 the Navy had put forward such a plan." (Note 21)


*Thanks to Lynn Eden, Acting Co-Director, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, for her helpful comments on an earlier version of this compilation.

1. For the two op-eds by the "Gang of Four"--George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn—see A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," and "Toward a Nuclear-Free World," Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007 and January 15, 2008.  See also Jan Lodal and Ivo Daalder, "The Logic of Zero: Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons," Foreign Affairs (November/December 2008), and George Perkovich and James Acton, eds., Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009).  For an earlier discussion, see Harold A. Feiveson, ed., The Nuclear Turning Point: A Blueprint for Deep Cuts and De-Alerting of Nuclear Weapons (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1999).   Nuclear abolition is the focus of international campaigns; see, for example, Global Zero  www.globalzero.com and the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament www.icnnd.org.

2. Jeffrey Lewis, "Minimum Deterrence," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July-August 2008, 38-41, is a starting point.   See also his study, Minimum Means of Reprisal: China's Search for Security in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007) on Beijing's construction of a finite deterrence posture during the Cold War.

3. Paul Backus, "Finite Deterrence, Controlled Retaliation" in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute (March 1959, 23–29).  Hanson Baldwin referred to a "‘finite' deterrent" in "Big Defense Issue: What Kind of Deterrent," New York Times, 1 February 1959.  Thanks to David A. Rosenberg for information on the Backus article.
4. See David A. Rosenberg, "Arleigh Albert Burke," in Robert William Love ed., The Chiefs of Naval Operations (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1980), especially 278-279 and 292-294, as well as "The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960." International Security 7 (Spring 1983): 50-61. Also relevant is Donald MacKenzie, Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Ballistic Missile Guidance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), 148-152.

5. Peter J.  Roman, Eisenhower and the Missile Gap (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995); James C. Olseon, Stuart Symington: A Life (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003); Christopher A. Preble, John F. Kennedy and the Missile Gap (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2004).

6. Rosenberg, "Arleigh Albert Burke," 302-304.

7. Roman, Eisenhower and the Missile Gap, 106; Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), 258-261; Deborah Shapley, Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara (Boston: Little Brown, 1993), 105; Desmond Ball, Politics and Force Levels: The Strategic Missile Program of the Kennedy Administration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 110.

8. Nevertheless, debate persists. See for example, statements by Kanter, Blechman, and Halperin in "Thousands, Hundreds or Zero: How Many Nuclear Weapons Do We Need?" Conference at American Association for Advance of Science, 8 May 2008.  For a summary of the presentations, see http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/0529nuke_forum.shtml.

9. For example, Lodal and Daalder, in "The Logic of Zero," argue for a mainly submarine-based deterrent, while Robert S. Norris, Hans Kristensen, and Ivan Oelrich, From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence -- A New Nuclear Policy on the Path Toward Eliminating Nuclear Weapons http://fas.org/pubs/_pages/occ_pap7.html.
(Washington, D.C.: Federation of American Scientists/Natural Resources Defense Council, 2009), propose a land-based bomber and missile force, eliminating all submarines, as a minimal deterrent.

10. David Alan Rosenberg, "Nuclear War Planning," in Michael Howard, George J. Andreopoulos, and Mark R. Shulman, The Laws of War: Constraints on Warfare in the Western World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 165.

11. Norris, Kristensen, and Oelrich, From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence  http://fas.org/pubs/_pages/occ_pap7.html, 29-33.

12. See also the discussion in Rosenberg, "Arleigh Albert Burke," 293.

13. Gerard C. Smith, Disarming Diplomat: The Memoirs of Gerard C. Smith, Arms Control Negotiator (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1996), 71-77.

14. See, for example, Rosenberg, "Arleigh Albert Burke," 298.

15. Ibid, 302-303.

16. First cited in Rosenberg, "Origins of Overkill," 57 (note 188).

17. Rosenberg, "Origins of Overkill," 4-6, 65-66.

18. For the Air Force critique of Navy strategy, see also Edward Kaplan, "Peace through Strength Alone: US Air Force Views on Arms Control in the 1950s and Early 1960s," in James M. Smith and Gwendolyn Hall, eds., Milestones in Strategic Arms Control, 1945-2000 : United States Air Force Roles and Outcomes (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 2002), 32-35.

19. Ball, Politics and Force Levels, 62.

20. For "straw man," see Lewis, "Minimum Deterrence," 39.

21. Robert S. McNamara, Blundering into Disaster: Surviving the First Century of the Nuclear Age (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 123A few years earlier, a University of Michigan political scientist Alexander Yanov wrote an op-ed, "An Avoidable 20-Year Race," advocating "minimum deterrence" postures for both superpowers, New York Times, 10 October 1984.