Term of Art: Balance of Terror

“Balance of terror: Mutual fear of commencing a nuclear war, a concept which postulates that no country will use nuclear weapons because of the fear of retaliation by the other side. Such a balance has been held because nuclear war, believed to be mutually destructive, would be non-productive to the aggressor. However, the concept is now questioned by proponents of a ‘limited’ nuclear war who believed that the use of nuclear weapons can be closely controlled and restricted to certain areas without provoking massive retaliation.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

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