Practice DBQ : Comparing Nuclear Weapons Policy

July 23, 2011

Help your students prepare for the NY Regents Exam with these document-based question exercises modeled closely on the format used in the exam.

Directions:

 
Read/view the documents in Part A (Documents 1-6) and answer the question(s) after each. Some of these documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise. As you think about each document, take into account both the source and any point of view that may be presented in it.
 
Then, in Part B, use information from the documents in Part A and your knowledge of history, geography, and current events to write a well-organized essay in which you:
 
  • Compare and contrast US nuclear weapons policy during the Cold War with nuclear weapons policy today under the Bush administration.
     
  • Evaluate the different perspectives on how the Bush administration's nuclear weapons policy will affect U.S. national security.
 
Historical Context:
 
Today nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are very much in the public eyeóas much so as during the arms race with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The current administration, however, is chartering a significantly different course when it comes to nuclear weapons policy than that of the Cold War era and the decade following it.
 
 

PART A - SHORT ANSWER

The documents below relate to nuclear weapons policy and national security issues. Examine each document carefully and then answer the question(s) that follows it.
 
 
Documents 1-3: Cold War era statements/documents
 
 
Document 1
 
"What do we mean when we speak of nuclear deterrence? Certainly we don't want such weapons for their own sake. We do not desire excessive forces, or what some people have called overkill. Basically, it's a matter of others' knowing that starting a conflict would be more costly to them than anything they might hope to gain.... Certainly the United States will never use its forces except in response to attack. Through the years, Soviet leaders have also expressed a sober view of nuclear war; and if we maintain a strong deterrence, they are exceedingly unlikely to launch an attack."
 
From text of a speech delivered by President Ronald Reagan, November 23, 1982
 
According to President Reagan, only in what circumstances would the United States use its nuclear weapons?
 

 

 


 

 


 
 
Document 2
 
Deterrence "means the certainty of suicide to the aggressor, not merely to his military forces, but to his society as a whole."
 
Alexander M. Haig Jr., Secretary of State for President Ronald Reagan
 
Why, according to proponents of this policy, would deterrence work in preventing nuclear war?
 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 
Document 3
 
 
In your own words, describe the Cold War policy illustrated here.
 

 

 


 

 


 
 
Documents 4-6: Contemporary statements/documents
 
Document 4
 
"For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence—the promise of massive retaliation against nations—means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies
 
Our security will require transforming the military you will lead—a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
 
Remarks by President Bush at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy, June 1, 2002, West Point, New York
 
 
According to George W. Bush, why won't the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment be enough to protect the United States in today's world?
 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 
State in your own words the type of action the U.S. military must be prepared to take, according to President Bush.
 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

Document 5
 
"Nuclear weapons play a critical role in the defense capabilities of the United States, its allies and friends. They provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD and large-scale conventional military force.
Nuclear attack options that vary in scale, scope and purpose will complement other military capabilities. The combination can provide the range of options needed to pose a credible deterrent to adversaries whose values and calculations of risk and of gain and loss may be very different from and more difficult to discern than those of past adversaries
 
[The combination] can provide greater flexibility in the design and conduct of military campaigns to defeat opponents decisively Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities)."
 
From the Nuclear Posture Review, United States Defense Department, March 10, 2002 (Source: http://globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/npr.htm)
 
 
According to the Nuclear Posture Review, what are the advantages of a military strategy that combines nuclear attack options with non-nuclear military capabilities?
 
 
 

 

 


 
 
 

 
Document 6
 
"Did the decision-makers in Washington reflect, when they gave themselves the right to launch nuclear attacks on the Middle East and elsewhere, that they might inspire those targeted to do likewise to us? Did they forget that there is no defense against nuclear arms and no rescue for those attacked by them?.... No country is omnipotent. None are invulnerable. What the United States has done to others at Hiroshima and Nagasakióand what we may yet do to others at Teheran and Tripoli—others can do to us."
 
Jonathan Schell, The Nation, April 1, 2002
 
How do the Bush and Schell perspectives on U.S. national security differ?
 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 
 

PART B - ESSAY

Directions
 
Using information from the documents in Part A and your knowledge of history, geography, and current events, write a well-organized essay in which you:
 
  • Compare and contrast US nuclear weapons policy during the Cold War with nuclear weapons policy today under the current Bush administration.
     
  • Evaluate the different perspectives on how the Bush administration's nuclear weapons policy will affect U.S. national security.