A particularly important factor in the development of early postwar U.S. military doctrine was the unwillingness of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to expend the resources necessary to equal the conventional force superiority of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. This decision required the United States and NATO to rely on the emerging nuclear weapons deterrent as the best way to preserve European peace.
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One of the most important demonstrations of this willingness to use nuclear weapons was the Strategic Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) issued in 1960. SIOP called for integrating the capabilities of the three nuclear weapons delivery components, or triad, which consisted of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), aerial bombers with intercontinental range, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). SIOP preparation involved participation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff ( JCS), the Secretary of Defense, and the President, and it detailed highly classifi ed information on specifi c enemy targets the U.S. military would strike with nuclear weapons in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, China, or some other country. SIOP has been a controversial program and revising and updating it has been an ongoing process, with revisions occurring in 1962, 1976, 1981, and 1989.
Massive Retaliation was another key element in early U.S. and NATO nuclear doctrinal strategy. Massive Retaliation involved NATO publicly announcing that it would respond to a Soviet bloc attack with a disproportionate response, emphasizing strategic nuclear weapons in the belief that such a policy would deter
potential adversaries from initiating an attack. Another key characteristic of Massive Retaliation was that the state that announced such a tactic had the ability to launch a second round of nuclear strikes against its attacker.
Massive Retaliation was announced by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles on January 12, 1954,
and it remained in force throughout the Eisenhower Administration as part of its New Look policy, which emphasized nuclear deterrence over conventional forces as the foundation of U.S. national security strategy. However, its lack of flexibility in responding to potential Soviet attack severely limited its effectiveness and it
would be replaced in the Kennedy Administration.
Enunciated by Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Flexible Response allowed the use of conventional defenses to stop a Soviet assault; deliberate escalation to tactical nuclear weapons if conventional defense collapsed; and escalation to strategic nuclear forces if further battlefi eld deterioration occurred, resulting in assured destruction of both sides.
The U.S. nuclear force could survive a fi rst strike attack to retaliate by destroying enemy cities and industrial capacity. The doctrinal tenet of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) was further codifi ed into U.S. nuclear doctrine as part of Flexible Response. Flexible Response has gone through signifi cant evolutions since its introduction, but it has remained a critical component of U.S. nuclear doctrine until the present.