Dr. Strangelove

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What I Learned Since I Stopped Worrying and Studied the Movie: A Teaching Guide to Stanley Kubrick 's Dr. Strangelove

Dan Lindley, University of Notre Dame

Dan Lindley is assistant professor in international relations and security studies at the University of Notre Dame. Lindley worked for several arms control and research organizations in Washington, D.C. before receiving a Ph.D. from MIT. Lindley has published and spoken on U.N. peacekeeping, internal conflict, the Cyprus problem and Greco-Turkish relations, collective security, the U.S. intervention in Panama, the role of ideas in international politics, and SDI contracting.

John Pike, former director of space policy at the Federation of
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A doomsday machine fits the bill. Ruling out "human meddling" is crucial because one must make credible the incredible threat of suicide. Dr. Strangelove explains this logic:
President Merkin Muffley: "But, how is it possible for this thing to be triggered automatically, and at the same time impossible to untrigger?" (54:42)
Strangelove: Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy ... the fearto attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision making process which rules out human meddling, the doomsday machine is terrifying. It 's simple to understand. And completely credible, and convincing.

Although it may not be fair to condemn the automated-response doomsday device on the basis of a single slip-up, the film invalidates the wisdom of that machine by highlighting its dangers. Would any state cede control of its weapons to computers and sensors?6So the problem remains: how to make the incredible credible. A fallback strategy is to introduce illogic and uncertainty into nuclear strategy and nuclear command and control. Akin to throwing the steering wheel out the car window when engaged in a game of chicken, delegating to base commanders the authority to issue strikes decentralizes military control and makes retaliation more likely.
Deterrence is enhanced if nuclear bombs might explode whenever a
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