Presented to the Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States
The term strategic posture generally is associated with the means and methods by which nations pursue their national interests — principally military forces and the way they are organized and employed. The link between national interests and strategic posture is determined by a nation’s strategic objectives. A nation’s most fundamental national interest is survival. Hence, its foremost strategic objective is to secure the homeland from attack. A strategic posture must first have adequate means and methods to ensure that objective. During the Cold War, the United States entered into a series of alliance relationships that extended the protection provided by its strategic posture to allies in Europe and the Pacific. U.S. national security policy also left open the possibility that nuclear weapons might be employed if other vital interests were threatened.
As technology has advanced, so too have the capabilities that constitute the strategic posture in a series of what historians term “revolutions in military affairs.” The invention of gunpowder, the internal combustion engine, electric current, nuclear fission and the integrated circuit all produced transformations in both the means and methods that characterized the strategic posture. Some new technologies led to the expansion of the definition of a strategic posture to include new domains for warfare, notably the oceans, airspace and outer space.
After World War Two, the term strategic posture came to be almost singularly associated with nuclear weapons and the long-range means to deliver them, as well as the infrastructure to build and support them.
What distinguished the strategic posture of the Cold War from that of previous eras was the acceptance by both sides of mutual vulnerability. The strategic posture was designed and built primarily to deter a nuclear attack, rather than to defeat one or otherwise prevail in the event of a conflict.
Find Archived Articles: