Assured Destruction

  • Lawrence Freedman


The formula chosen to emphasize the disastrous nature of a general nuclear war was that of ‘assured destruction’. This term is now taken to refer to a nuclear strategy based purely and simply on a threat to destroy centres of population with no alternative nuclear options contemplated at all. It is also often taken as a creation of the mid-1960s, articulated by McNamara on the rebound from an unsuccessful attempt to promote a counter-force strategy. Having first expressed a desire to avoid city destruction, he now decided to concentrate American nuclear power on little else but cities.


Enemy Attack Surprise Attack Offensive Force Nuclear Strategy Soviet Population 
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  1. 8.
    James Trainor, ‘DOD says AICBM is Feasible’ Missiles and Rockets, 24 December 1962.Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    Stewart Alsop, ‘Our new strategy: the alternatives to total war’, The Saturday Evening Post 1 December 1962.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    Robert Gilpin, American Scientists and Nuclear Weapons Policy (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Edward Randolph Jayne, The ABM Debate; Strategic Defense and National Security (MIT Center for International Studies, June 1969)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Institute for Strategic Studies 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Freedman

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