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Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks

by Barry R Posen Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 296 pages
AU$69.00 NZ$71.30
Product Status: Title is Print on Demand - May take 4 weeks
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In this sobering book, Barry R. Posen demonstrates how the interplay between conventional military operations and nuclear forces could, in conflicts among states armed with both conventional and nuclear weaponry, inadvertently produce pressures for nuclear escalation. Knowledge of these hidden pressures, he believes, may help some future decision maker avoid catastrophe.

Building a formidable argument that moves with cumulative force, he details the way in which escalation could occur not by mindless accident, or by deliberate preference for nuclear escalation, but rather as a natural accompaniment of land, naval, or air warfare at the conventional level. Posen bases his analysis on an empirical study of the east-west military competition in Europe during the 1980s, using a conceptual framework drawn from international relations theory, organization theory, and strategic theory.

The lessons of his book, however, go well beyond the east-west competition. Since his observations are relevant to all military competitions between states armed with both conventional and nuclear weaponry, his book speaks to some of the problems that attend the proliferation of nuclear weapons in longstanding regional conflicts. Optimism that small and medium nuclear powers can easily achieve ''stable'' nuclear balances is, he believes, unwarranted.

1. Introduction: A Model of Inadvertent Escalation
2. Air War and Inadvertent Nuclear Escalation
3. The Balance of Ground Forces on the Central Front
4. Escalation and NATO's Northern Flank
5. "Offensive" and “Defensivea Sea Control: A Comparative Assessment
6. Conclusion

Appendix 1. The Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) Model
Appendix 2. Central Region Close Air Support Aircraft and Atack Helicopters (1988)
Appendix 3. The Attrition-FEBA Expansion Model: Symphony Version
Appendix 4. A Barrier Defense Model

Selected Bibliography

"Posen has written a provocative and important book... which explores an issue that could increase in relevance as nuclear weapons proliferate throughout the Third World."

Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program at MIT. He is the author of The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (winner of the Furniss Award and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award), Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks, and Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy, all from Cornell.