Cold War History: Pentagon Draws Up First Strategy For Fighting A Long Nuclear War

From 1982:

WASHINGTON, May 29— Defense Department policy-makers, in a new five-year defense plan, have accepted the premise that nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union could be protracted and have drawn up their first strategy for fighting such a war.

In what Pentagon officials term the ”first complete defense guidance of this Administration,” drafted for Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger’s signature, the armed forces are ordered to prepare for nuclear counterattacks against the Soviet Union ”over a protracted period.”

The guidance document, drawn up in the Pentagon and reflecting its views, will form the basis for the Defense Department’s budget requests for the next five fiscal years. The document was also a basic source for a recent strategic study done by the National Security Council, according to Defense Department officials. That study is the foundation of the Administration’s overall strategic position.

Debate on Nuclear War

The nature of nuclear war has been a subject of intense debate among political leaders, defense specialists and military officers. Some assert that there would be only one all-out mutually destructive exchange. Others argue that a nuclear war with many exchanges could be fought over days and weeks.

The outcome of the debate will shape the weapons, communications and strategy for nuclear forces. The civilian and military planners, having decided that protracted war is possible, say that American nuclear forces ”must prevail and be able to force the Soviet Union to seek earliest termination of hostilities on terms favorable to the United States.” The Pentagon considers a ”protracted” war anything beyond a single exchange of nuclear weapons.

Read More at the New York Times.