Abstract

In early 1969 President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, received a brie fing on the U.S.nuclear war plan, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). Appalled by the catastrophic scale of the SIOP, Nixon and Kissinger sought military options that were more credible than massive nuclear strikes. Participants in the Air Force Nuclear Options project also supported more flexible nuclear war plans.Although Kissinger repeatedly asked Defense Department of ficials to construct limited options, they were skeptical that it would be possible to control nuclear escalation or to introduce greater flexibility without weakening the SIOP.Interagency studies presented a mixed verdict about the desirability of limited options; nevertheless, continued White House pressure encouraged Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to sponsor a major review of nuclear targeting.In 1972 the Foster panel developed concepts of limited, selective, and regional nuclear options that were responsive to Kissinger's interest in credible nuclear threats. The Foster panel's report led to the controversial “Schlesinger Doctrine” and further efforts to revise the SIOP, but serious questions endured about the whole concept of controlled nuclear warfare.

This content is only available as a PDF.