McNamara’s Efforts at Persuasion

  • Jane E. Stromseth
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


McNamara’s case for improving NATO’s non-nuclear forces rested on three main arguments. First, he contended that a strong conventional defence would enhance deterrence since the nuclear arsenal could not credibly deter all threats, especially those at the lower end of the spectrum. Second, he stressed that a conventional response to a non-nuclear aggression would be less destructive and less risky than a nuclear response. It would both convey NATO’s determination to defend itself and support diplomatic efforts to stop a crisis before it escalated. Third, McNamara claimed that a strong conventional defence was within NATO’s reach, in the light of American reappraisals of the NATO/Warsaw Pact conventional military balance .


Nuclear Weapon Nuclear Force Force Structure Flexible Response Nuclear Response 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    See the discussion in David N. Schwartz, NATO’s Nuclear Dilemmas ( Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983 ) pp. 156–65Google Scholar
  2. John Steinbruner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision, pp. 200–13; and Desmond Ball, Politics and Force Levels: The Strategic Missile Program of the Kennedy Administration ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980 ) pp. 196–8.Google Scholar
  3. 40.
    Timothy Stanley, NATO In Transition (New York: Praeger, 1965) pp. 266; 354–6Google Scholar
  4. Harlan Cleveland, NATO: The Transatlantic Bargain ( New York: Harper & Row, 1970 ) p. 82.Google Scholar
  5. 63.
    Robert S. McNamara, ‘The Military Role of Nuclear Weapons: Perceptions and Misperceptions’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Fall 1983) p. 79; Personal Interview, Robert S. McNamara, 18 January 1983, Washington, D.C.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Jane E. Stromseth 1988

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  • Jane E. Stromseth

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