Since the dawn of the nuclear age, three distinct approaches to nuclear strategy – disarmament, denial, and deterrence – have waxed and waned in importance as guides to US doctrine and policy.[1] Although champions of each of these approaches sometimes defend their position as if it represented the one true religion, each of these strategies can be more or less effective and appropriate depending on the circumstances. As David A. Cooper suggests, changes in the strategic setting can vector US policymakers towards one of these strategies, despite the fact that the other two competing approaches never really fall completely outside the realm of policy debate or plausibility.

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Do nuclear weapons revolutionize world politics?  For decades, the standard answer from international relations scholars has been a resounding yes.  This mainstream view, known as ‘The Theory of the Nuclear Revolution,’ is associated with scholars such as Kenneth Waltz, Robert Jervis, and Charles Glaser.  [1]It argues that nuclear weapons generate a condition of mutual vulnerability that stalemates the military balance, makes further competition pointless and irrational, and generally pacifies the international system.

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Flawed Logics coverHeated debates about the merits of specific arms control agreements were a constant feature of the Cold War. Did the hawks or the doves offer a more compelling and intellectually consistent viewpoint in these debates? In his new book, which should be of great interest to both historians and international relations theorists, James Lebovic argues that neither side in these debates was consistently correct and that the terms of arms control agreements reached during the Cold War “were never as good as U.S. proponents claimed—or as bad as opponents feared” (1). The central purpose of Lebovic’s historical research, however, is not to argue about the merits and flaws of particular arms-control treaties but to examine the underlying ideas and assumptions shared by both sides in the debate. For all of their important policy differences, Lebovic argues, both hawks and doves demonstrated “flawed logics” in their approach to arms control throughout the Cold War. While both sides ostensibly focused their respective cases on the hard number and operational realities of nuclear weapons, the arguments made by both hawks and doves were based on crucial ideas and assumptions about aspects of the adversary’s intentions, strategies, and trustworthiness that were rarely subjected to proper scrutiny.

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