By Lawrence Freedman
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Extra resources for Britain and Nuclear Weapons
This reflected a sensible recognition that the problem was political rather than operational in nature; the need was to reassure allies that decisions critical to their destiny were not wholly beyond their influence. A move in this direction had been made with the Athens Guidelines on consultation before nuclear use, agreed in 1962, and now the Nuclear Planning Group would bring a number of the non-nuclear powers into all stages of peacetime nuclear decision-making. INDEPENDENCE If the Labour Party had not won the General Election of October 1964, British strategic thought might well have followed a more Gaullist line.
While the move to this doctrine made only a slight impression on NATO's force structure it had the result of confirming nuclear weapons as something to be employed only in the most extreme circums tances. The American suspicion of nuclear weapons embraced the 'theatre' or 'tactical' as well as the 'strategic' variety. Thousands of short-range 'tactical' nuclear weapons, conceived of as providing a massive supplement to conventional firepower, had arrived in Europe. One feature of the 1957 policy had been to encourage the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) to take this route.
Against McNamara's list of disadvantages of limited nuclear capabilities, Britain's Polaris missiles came out remarkably well. They were neither particularly expensive nor 'prone to obsolescence'. McNamara's strictures concerning the danger and lack of credibility of independent nuclear forces assumed vulnerability to surprise attack. This could encourage crisis instability, in which both sides would have an incentive to launch a pre-emptive attack, lest its retaliatory forces get caught on the ground in a disarming strike.