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MAD!! Mutual Assured Destruction and You!

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

MAD! And You!

This Might Make You Mad...

Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), was a military doctrine and part of the U.S. national security policy for a better part of the Cold War (1947-1991).  The MAD doctrine is described as full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction(in the Cold War era: nuclear weapons) by two opposing sides that would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of both the attacker and the defender, becoming a war of no victory but only reciprocal destruction.  In other words, if one attacker uses nuclear weapons, the responder to that attack will use nuclear weapons, thus assuring total annihilation for both sides.

Total annihilation.  This was the U.S plan to protect our way of life for the better part of the twentieth century.  Seems a bit off from the standard national security policy of "protecting our way of life".  With MAD, our way of life would be... annihilated.  But is that the true nature of this doctrine?  My theory suggests that MAD is in line with our current and earlier doctrines designed to better place the U.S. and its interests around the world. 

In Herbert F. Yorks book, The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb, York apologizes for the events which led to MAD, explaining that the "...root of the problem [was not] maliciousness, but rather a sort of technological exuberance that has overwhelmed the other factors that go into the making of overall national policy".  At the time of development, the Hydrogen bomb was described as technological progress and could be marked as the beginning of the arms race.   The race to develop and later deploy the Hydrogen bomb is well documented and not covered in this article however, the systemic repercussions felt by this incredible pace and push of nuclear weaponry development only added to fevered pitch felt among the worlds developed countries to sustain and/or match this level of development if only to keep their "way of life". 

The unilateral decisions made by the U.S set the rate and scale for most of the steps in the strategic-arms race.  The U.S. led the way  and in many cases started development before any other country and easily established a large and long-lasting lead in the arms race in terms of deployed weaponry  and different types of weapons.  It is in this sense that I question why the U.S. adopted MAD.  Why adopt a doctrine that does not allow anyone to win?  No one comes out on top.  If the two world powers (hypothetical) were to MAD each other wouldn't that leave a third-rate power in a place to lead the world?  Such a doctrine clearly has no other interest other than to  promote the industrial-military complex and its interests:

1.  Weapons Development Industry.  Contractors involved in bidding and procuring U.S. Military weapons development contracts

2.  Expansion of U.S. Military interests in world-wide deployment of bases and troops.  Positioning U.S. hegemony

3.  Utilizing the increased U.S. Military presence to influence the positioning of businesses aligned with U.S. interests

This is  a short, but broad, list of possible reasons such a doctrine as MAD could be adopted.  Bottom line, similar to nearly every modern-day doctrines adopted by the U.S. MAD was designed to propagate our interests around the world.  Truly an unfortunate description for a doctrine, as anyone reading it would think counter to what its definition truly meant.  Myself included. 

Nuclear Explosion


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  1. Foreign Affairs The Rise of the U.S Nuclear Primace. Foreign Affairs: Foreign Affairs, 2006.

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