October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

First Strike Policy

Edwards notes that "American nuclear strategy by the mid-1950s was based upon the premise that the United States would land the first blow with the bomb." In fact, due to the recognized impossibility of knocking out 100% of a determined enemy1s nuclear attack, "the Air Force pushed against air defense, fearing it would pull resources and commitments away from the Strategic Air Command."

Edwards charges that the U.S. Strategic Air Command "intended never to need SAGE [continental air defense] warning and interception; it would strike the Russians first. After SAC's hammer blow, continental air defenses would be faced only with cleaning up a weak and probably disorganized counterstrike."

Edwards notes one bone-chilling rationale related to our unofficial first-strike policy: As technology advanced and the potential reaction time the U.S. would have to decide what to do in the event of an attack diminished, "Since missiles not launched before an incoming strike arrived would be destroyed, commanders experienced a strong incentive to use 'em or lose 'em." ^

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