Deterrence & Reassurance: Sir Michael Howard and the Nuclear Strategy Debate in the 1980s


  • Linda Risso Centre for Army Leadership, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, UK


In the 1980s, Michael Howard took an active part in the debate about nuclear strategy. He used his historical expertise, his personal military experience, and his links with academia and government to offer a balanced analysis of the nature, risks and ethical implications of the use of nuclear weapons. This article examines the debate among security experts when rapid technological advances, and a tendency to over-estimate the nuclear capability of the Soviet Union, increased the risk of miscalculations and accidental nuclear annihilation. As this article demonstrates, Howard’s contribution stands out for his unique ability to bring together multiple dimensions in a balanced and considered approach to nuclear strategy and to its ethical implications.