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Explain and Illustrate the concept of “limited war” in the context of the cold war

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The classical strategy.
  3. The USSR expansion.
  4. The ultimate goal of limited war in the Cold War.
  5. Limited war objectives.
    1. Relevance of the Korean War.
    2. Well defined objective.
    3. The second characteristic of limited war.
    4. The battle confined to a local geographical area.
  6. Geography as a way to keep a war limited.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

After 1945, the parallel rises of US and USSR, emerged two superpowers in competition at all levels, fighting for hegemony on the post war world. Characterized by the possession of the nuclear weapon, obtained and used in 1945 by the United States and developed in USSR in 1949, this new conflict called the Cold War, and ruled by the realist vision of international relations in which states are fighting for power through war and deterrence, generated a new sort of war: the limited war. Actually, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki underlined the fact that total war could no longer be possible. The development of ?mass destruction weapons? destroyed the idea that war was a continuation of politics by other means(1) and forced the US to find another way to deter USSR than massive retaliation. Kissinger, in 1957, explained this obligation: ?As the power of modern weapons grows, the threat of all-out war loses its credibility and therefore its political effectiveness. Our capacity for massive retaliation did not avert the Korean War, the loss of northern Indo-China, the Soviet-Egyptian arms deal, or the Suez crisis. A deterrent which one is afraid to implement when it is challenged ceases to be a deterrent.?(2)The classical strategy wasn't working anymore; hence a new one had to be found to achieve the US objectives against the Soviet-Union. Indeed, the American strategy was characterized by what Osgood calls ?the twin fears?(3) which necessitated a real action against communism.

[...] Actually, a mutual and tacit agreement on the fact that war must be kept restrained is necessary. And this co-operation is improved by communication between the two sides. For example, after the Cuban missiles crisis, which constituted the major risk of escalation in the Cold War conflict and made the superpowers realise that direct communication was necessary, a telephone? hotline between the White House and the Kremlin had been set to allow them avoiding escalation. Consequently, we can see that a limited war success is linked to many conditions. [...]


[...] Indeed, this concept can be seen in the series of strategic doctrines developed from the Kennedy period onwards, from the McNamara doctrine through the Schlesinger, the Nixon and the Carter doctrines. It is based on the idea that using nuclear weapons wouldn't necessary mean launching a total nuclear conflict but could be controlled. Actually, by limiting a nuclear attack to the use of small number of weapons and to military targets only, an escalation to an all out nuclear war could be avoided. [...]


[...] But the ultimate goal of limited war in the Cold War context was to contain communism in the Warsaw Pact barriers. Indeed, by fighting against revolutionary communist movement, like the Vietminh, and by protecting the pro-Americans regimes all over the world, the US ?contained? the expansion of the soviet influence instead of destroying it. strategy of limited war would seek to achieve deterrence not so much through the threat of devastation but through depriving the aggressor of the possibility of gaining its objectives?, Kissinger wrote in 1957(6). [...]

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