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Nuclear Games: An Exercise Examining Stability and Defense in a Proliferated World

By

Ballistic Missile Defense Technical Studies Series Study 4

This study is part of a series of technical reports commissioned by The Heritage Foundation to examine programmatic issues related to ballistic missile defense. Since the Bush Administration officially declared in June 2002 that the United States had withdrawn from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the former Soviet Union, the focus has turned to the best way to build and operate a missile defense system that lessens the vulnerability of the United States and its friends and allies to attack. First and foremost, this extends to lessening the likelihood of a nuclear-armed attack.

An effective ballistic missile defense will necessarily account for the ongoing proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. This study, using the game tool, tests the hypothesis that ballistic missile defenses will not contribute to nuclear instability in a setting in which seven "players" possess ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. It suggests not only that defenses will not undermine stability in this setting, but also that they can make a positive contribution to stability.

Beyond the questions of stability and defense, the underlying game design will also allow policymakers to familiarize themselves with the difficult national security problems that they are likely to confront as a result of proliferation. The Heritage Foundation looks forward to using this tool to examine problems related to nuclear security beyond those revealed in the testing of the hypothesis.

The use of the game tool in the production of this study effectively makes the players of the game also the authors. In addition, many others, some from within The Heritage Foundation and others from outside, contributed to this study in other ways. Given the team required, Heritage formed the Nuclear Stability Working Group to undertake the various tasks involved.

The Heritage Foundation thanks the officers, analysts, and research assistants who spent countless hours of their time in service to the Working Group as players from November 2004 through January 2005. These individuals include (in addition to the undersigned) James Carafano, Ariel Cohen, Dana Dillon, Balbina Hwang, Anthony Kim, Alane Kochems, Will Schirano, Ji Hye Shin, Jack Spencer, John Tkacik, Aerica Veazey, and Larry Wortzel. The Foundation also thanks the Working Group’s Deputy Game Managers Lucia Selvaggi and Kathy Gudgel for lending their extraordinary organizational skills to the production of this study.

Three outside consultants helped to design the underlying game: Dr. David C. McGarvey, Dr. James Scouras, and Dr. Russell Richardson Vane. The Heritage Foundation particularly appreciates the patience and understanding of Dr. Vane, who was required to withdraw from the project before its completion for reasons beyond his control. Baker Spring, The Heritage Foundation’s F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy, served as Game Manager and helped to edit this study.

The Foundation also gratefully acknowledges the contributions made by its editorial and Publishing Services staff to the production of this study: Editors Jon Rodeback, William T. Poole, and Richard Odermatt reviewed the entire manuscript with, as always, great care and attention to detail; Alex Adrianson designed the cover and the interior, and composed the text; and Rick Harrigan produced the visuals that appear in the appendices.

—Helle C. Dale, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Read the entire report [PDF]

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