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In 1957 against the background of the developing Cold War between the USA and USSR SAC’s plan to ‘overdestroy’ Moscow is clear and simple case of the correct application of Clausewitian strategic thinking. This essay will demonstrate that SAC’s plan to overdestroy Moscow, were conceived primarily from the political objectives of the United States foreign policy, the application of Clausewitzian strategic thought, and the arguably Boolean means of nuclear war. The logical conclusion of which is concurrent with SAC’s plans to overdestroy Moscow and by extension the rest of the communist world.

It should be noted that at the root of the question lies the paradox of strategic nuclear defense. The answer tenured in this essay therefore rests on the logic of this paradox and should be understood as such. The paradox of strategic nuclear defense is simple; the political objectives of governments require strategic plans so destructive that they no longer serve the political objectives they were designed for. To begin this essay it would be expedient to examine what the USA’s political objectives were.

In 1957 the government of the United States of America understood the continued existence of both capitalist and communist simultaneously as nation states was unviable in the long run. This is most clearly expressed in NSC 162/2 published in October 1953 with the following assessment ‘…the basic Soviet objectives continue to be the consolidation and expansion of their own sphere of power and the eventual domination of the non-communist world’[1]. The foremost and political objective of any government is the continued survival of the state, Eisenhower and his national security advisors understood the USSR as a threat of that magnitude. It stands therefore that the political objective of the United States was ultimately the disarming of the communist world, if necessary by force.

The strategy of SAC to overdestroy Moscow and by extension the rest of the communist world can be accurately descried as proportionate for two reasons; firstly the commitment to the political objectives of the cold war were high. Secondly, Clausewitzian strategic logic demands the maximum use of force to guarantee the imposition of your will upon the enemy.

In the first case the, acceptance of US foreign policy and high levels of commitment towards it can be seen in Gerald C. Smiths’ 1957 memorandum dated 25th of November. The memorandum confirms that key offices within the national security framework of the United States were complicit in SAC’s strategy[2] to overdestroy Moscow. This complicity demonstrates an acceptance and commitment to the political objective of the United States as ultimately the disarming of the communist world, if necessary by force. As Clausewitz stated in his 1832 in his magnum opus , Vom Krieg ‘war is a mere continuation of policy by other means’[3], if the USA’s policy was the ultimate defeat of communism, the military strategy will follow. As such, Strategic Air Command’s strategy was a proportionate strategic response to the political objectives of the United States government.

In the second place Clausewitian logic condones SAC’s strategy as a propionate and correct use of force. Clausewitz clarifies how much force should be applied; ‘…the political object, as the original motivation for the War, will be the standard for determining both the aim of military force and also the amount of effort to be made’[4] It is assumed that always the aim in war is to disarm your enemy, likewise your enemy will always aim to disarm you, therefore in logical conception war will always tend to the extreme. The specific means of nuclear war demand that any use of force be maximum available. This logic pushes any nuclear strategy towards the purist conception of war, and therefore in Clausewitian terms SAC’s plan to overdestroy Moscow was a proportionate use of force. Indeed the nuclear means rendered over destruction of Moscow the only strategy appropriate.

The paradox of nuclear defense is evident in the statements above. As Clausewitz states war is a continuation of policy of by other means. If it is understood that both the USA and the USSR had policies equally determined as to the disarming of each other, with force if necessary, the war resulting, using all available means would destroy the planet. This cannot serve the political aims of either the USA or USSR while at the same time being the only strategy available.

It is a further irony to note that the greater the level of strategic planning for a nuclear war and implementation of planning through acquisition of nuclear weapons, the greater the understanding of the consequences of such action. This leads to nuclear war becoming less likely. The logic behind this is simple, a greater understanding of the consequences of nuclear war leads to an understanding that it does not serve political objectives. The evidence for nuclear war being avoided because it does not serve political objectives can be seen in the avoidance of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, the SALT talks and the continued nuclear peace today. By planning to overdestroy Moscow and the rest of the communist world, SAC unwittingly maintained an understanding of mutually assured destruction and therefore made nuclear war less likely.

The paradox of nuclear defense does not nullify the foreign policy objectives of Eisenhower’s administration. It could be argued that the paradox of nuclear defense furthered the United States ultimate goal of disarming the USSR. A convincing argument is put forward by Sir Laurence Freedman asserting that ‘the centre piece of American strategy was economic.'[5] This can be seen also be seen in NSC 162/2, it emphasis on the importance of maintaining a strong economy.[6] Nuclear weapons were the technical fix that enabled the USA to maintain a peace time economy as advocated in NSC 162/2 whilst at the same time maintaining a strong deterrent against soviet attack. In the long run the Soviet Union could not sustain it’s spending on large conventional forces and nuclear missile programs. Many historians and strategists understand the USA to have triumphed over the USSR in the cold war because of having a stronger economy. SAC’s plan to overdestroy Moscow enabled relatively low levels of military spending in comparison to the USSR.

The fundamental question of why Eisenhower chose to adopt a policy of Massive Retaliation and the resulting SAC plan to overdestroy Moscow can be answered by looking at his experiences during the Koran war. Eisenhower and his secretary of state John Foster Dulles, felt that the threat to use nuclear weapons during 1953 at the end of the Korean war hastened the pace of negations and the end of the war.[7] Eisenhower was a believer in coercive power of nuclear weapons. He believed that SAC’s plan to overdestroy Moscow and by extension the rest of the communist world would deter soviet aggression.

It is revealing to ask what would have happened to the USA if SAC had not planned to overdestroy Moscow and the rest of the communist world in the face of perceived soviet aggression.

[1] NSC 162/2 original document, bottom of the first page

[2] and

[3]Carl von Clausewitz, trs. Colonel J.J. Graham. ‘On War’, Barnes and Noble Publishing, New York, 2004, p. 17

[4] Ibid. p. 8

[5] L. Freedman ‘The evolution of nuclear strategy’, Macmillan in association with the International Institute for Strategic Studies , 1989, Basingstoke/London p.78

[6] NSC 162/2 original document, top of the sixth page

[7] Rosemary J. Foot ‘Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the Korean Conflict (in Truman, Eisenhower, and the Uses of Atomic Superiority)’ 1988, International Security, Vol. 13, No. 3. p1


Have you seen this man?


If you can identify this man, or know someone whom you think it may be, the london village show will make you a gift... Washington DC won't know what hit it..

Fourth Generation War


Fourth Generation War may well be upon us. Frustrated by an lack of actual fighting the US Navy and The fine gents of the Gray Funnel line, seemingly inspired by recent reality TV shows, have taken fooling around with YouTube. Fourth generation warfare's battle are fought over YouTube and the medium is music. The RN kicked off; the US responded. Who will be the ultimate winner, who cares, who worries that our tax dollar/pounds maybe slightly better spent?

Interestingly the choice and style of each of these videos show the different characters of the Navy's involved. As a patriot I'm just going to leave it there. Come on RN... lets shake of the stereotypes..

Your the judge.. you decide...

Her Majesty's Britannic Royal Navy

Uncle Sam's Finest

Marines are Just weird - singing into an SA80?

The Russian's Didn't get it at all.

Nothing from the Germans as of yet.. Probably for the best.

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