mutual assured destruction
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mutual assured destruction:see nuclear strategynuclear strategy,
a policy for the use of nuclear weapons. The first atomic bombs were used in the context of the Allies' World War II policy of strategic bombing. Early in the cold war, U.S.
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mutual(ly) assured destruction (MAD)(STRATEGIC THEORY) a situation where the nuclear arsenals of opposed nation states or alliances are approximately equivalent in capacity and invulnerability so that:
- neither could inflict sufficient damage on the other to immobilize it and prevent a retaliatory attack; and
- unacceptably high levels of destruction would inevitably result for both parties to the conflict if one were to launch an attack given that mechanisms for automatic retaliation are built-in to defence systems. Thus, assuming rational behaviour, the outcome of MAD was theorized to be that no attack will occur. Apart from the ever-present risk of nuclear war happening by accident, a further weakness of strategic thinking based on MAD is that it encouraged a continuous escalation of the ARMS RACE, including attempts to design defensive systems (e.g. the so-called ‘Star Wars’ programme) which would allow the possibility of victory in a nuclear war (see also SECOND STRIKE CAPABILITY). A further strategic option which earlier had also led to escalation of the arms race was the doctrine of ‘flexible response’: that in situations of limited attack, the ability to deliver an exactly appropriate level of response is required. This also led to the proliferation of new categories of nuclear weapons. see also NUCLEAR DETERRENCE.