The Abiding Strength of Nuclear Peace

Nuclear deterrence utterly changed the mission of the Air Force from combat, to preventing enemies from aggression in the first place, according to Vice Admiral C. R. Bell, former vice director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff during the Cold War. Discussing the legacy of Strategic Air Command at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Tuesday, Bell said that before the nuclear age, “the chief purpose of the military establishment was to win wars,” but “with the advent of the atomic bomb, its principal purpose has changed—to avert war.” This strategic change in warfare and “the knowledge to build nuclear weapons can never be erased,” stressed Bell. With fewer warheads in our current inventory, “the preservation of our capability to adapt our deterrent forces to a rapidly changing unpredictable strategic future becomes critical,” he added. Since we have “neither new delivery platforms nor new warheads in development, we must not be hasty to take an irreversible step to reduce our capabilities and their flexibility,” underscored Bell. “The greatest utility of nuclear weapons is in their non-use, in the diplomacy derived from the threat,” he concluded.