I caught the 1984 Reagan v. Mondale foreign policy debate on CSPAN tonight, and was floored by the nuke-speak. I was too young to see this originally, and it is quite interesting, esp. w/ the hindsight of 28 years. The 1988 debate is also pretty fascinating w/r/t nuclear policy.
At Foreign Policy, William Burr writes in “How to Fight a Nuclear War” about President Jimmy Carter’s plans for the apocalypse:
With other recently declassified material, PD-59 shows that the United States was indeed preparing to fight a nuclear war, with the hope of enduring. To do this, it sought a nuclear force posture that ensured a “high degree of flexibility, enduring survivability, and adequate performance in the face of enemy actions.” If deterrence failed, the United States “must be capable of fighting successfully so that the adversary would not achieve his war aims and would suffer costs that are unacceptable.”
Perhaps even more remarkable than this guidance is the fact that, although the Obama administration is conducting a review of U.S. nuclear targeting guidance, key concepts behind PD-59 still drive U.S. policy to this day.