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The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy

For the first time in history, nuclear weapons offer the possibility of destroying a country before one has defeated or destroyed its armed forces.

The scope of the Single Integrated Operational Plan was awesome. Given adequate warning time, the United States and allies would launch their entire strategic force of about 3,500 nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union, China and satellite states.

A key feature of the new plan, put into effect just before the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, was to aim largely at Soviet weapons, and not at cities and industry, an idea known as counterforce.

McNamara shifted to a strategy that he called “assured destruction,” which required building the number of weapons needed to destroy 20 to 25 percent of the Soviet population and 50 percent of the industrial base. McNamara capped the number of Minuteman missiles to be built at one thousand. His analysts concluded, “The main reason for stopping at 1,000 Minuteman missiles, 41 Polaris submarines and some 500 strategic bombers is that having more would not be worth the cost.” McNamara hoped that the Soviets would also reach a plateau—and stop building.7 A critic of McNamara proposed adding “mutual” to “assured destruction” and the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction, known pointedly as MAD, was born. For many Americans, this idea of equal vulnerability and mutual deterrence came to define the Cold War.

In the cold war, the Americans discovered a group of spies embedded in industry to steal trade secrets. Rather than expel them, they fed them disinformation and faulty parts (malfunctioning control system software). One of these faulty parts led to a giant gas explosion in Russia.

While belligerent in public, Reagan was fearful in nuclear war and greatly wanted to reduce the specter of atomic bombs.

National Security Decision Directive 32: Titled “U.S. National Security Strategy,” was a directive by Reagan in 1982. It expanded on the idea of containment, seeking to force the Soviet Union “to bear the brunt of its economic shortcomings, and to encourage long-term liberalizing and nationalist tendencies within the Soviet Union". This marked a shift towards confrontation with the USSR.

The Dead Hand

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