To Kill Nations: American Strategy in the Air-Atomic Age and the Rise of Mutually Assured Destruction by Edward KaplanTo Kill Nations: American Strategy in the Air-Atomic Age and the Rise of Mutually Assured Destruction by Edward Kaplan

To Kill Nations: American Strategy in the Air-Atomic Age and the Rise of Mutually Assured…

byEdward Kaplan

Hardcover | April 22, 2015

Pricing and Purchase Info

$50.65 online 
$59.95 list price save 15%
Earn 253 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


Between 1945 and 1950, the United States had a global nuclear monopoly. The A-bomb transformed the nation's strategic airpower and saw the Air Force displace the Navy at the front line of American defense. In To Kill Nations, Edward Kaplan traces the evolution of American strategic airpower and preparation for nuclear war from this early air-atomic era to a later period (1950–1965) in which the Soviet Union’s atomic capability, accelerated by thermonuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, made American strategic assets vulnerable and gradually undermined air-atomic strategy. The shift to mutually assured destruction (MAD) via general nuclear exchange steadily took precedence in strategic thinking and budget allocations. Soon American nuclear-armed airborne bomber fleets shaped for conventionally defined—if implausible, then impossible—victory were supplanted by missile-based forces designed to survive and punish. The Air Force receded from the forefront of American security policy.Kaplan throws into question both the inevitability and preferability of the strategic doctrine of MAD. He looks at the process by which cultural, institutional, and strategic ideas about MAD took shape and makes insightful use of the comparison between generals who thought they could win a nuclear war and the cold institutional logic of the suicide pact that was MAD. Kaplan also offers a reappraisal of Eisenhower’s nuclear strategy and diplomacy to make a case for the marginal viability of air-atomic military power even in an era of ballistic missiles.

Edward Kaplan is Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is coeditor of Atlas for Introduction to Military History and editor of High Flight: History of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Title:To Kill Nations: American Strategy in the Air-Atomic Age and the Rise of Mutually Assured…Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.39 inPublished:April 22, 2015Publisher:CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801452481

ISBN - 13:9780801452482


Table of Contents

Introduction1. Antecedents2. Declaration, Action, and the Air-Atomic Strategy3. Finding a Place4. The Fantastic Compression of Time5. To Kill a Nation6. Stalemate, Finite Deterrence, Polaris, and SIOP-627. New Sheriff in Town8. End of an EraConclusionKey to Sources and Abbreviations

Editorial Reviews

"While the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine had genuine logical robustness internally, it looked (and indeed was) totally insane the moment one stepped just a millimeter outside of it. And everyone had to live with that—not just the Air Force but everyone inside the national security community in Washington, DC. In To Kill Nations, Edward Kaplan makes clear the distinction between articulated, presidential-level declaratory policy and the military planning process, which may stay within the boundaries of the former and may not. The military will always have its own imperatives and institutional drivers. Unless policymakers keep on top of these, they will risk losing control of what actually goes on in planning. Kaplan emphasizes this reality in his detailed history of early U.S. nuclear war planning." - Tami Davis Biddle, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg Chair of Aerospace Studies, U.S. Army War College, author of Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945