Broken-Backed War Theory
Broken-Backed War Theory is a concept used to describe a form of conflict that could potentially transpire after a massive nuclear exchange. Assuming that following a nuclear exchange all the participants have not been utterly annihilated, there may arise a scenario unique to military strategy and theory, one in which all or some of the parties involved strive to continue fighting until the other side is decisively defeated.
Origin of the Phrase
Broken-Backed War Theory was first formally elaborated on in the 1952 British Defence White Paper, to describe what would presumably happen after a massive nuclear exchange.The American "New Look Strategy of 1953/54" utterly rejected the notion of Broken-Backed war. They dropped the term from the 1955 white paper, and the phrase has since faded from common usage.
Dr. Klaus Knorr purported, that in a broken-backed war scenario, only military weapons and vehicles on hand prior to the sustained hostilities would be of use, as the economic potential of both sides would be, at least in theory, utterly shattered.
Do current predictions on the nature of future warfare exhaust not only all possible, but all likely, contingencies? It can be granted that a long-drawn-out and massive war conducted with conventional, by which I mean modernized but nonatomic, weapons, is so unlikely to occur that it may be safely neglected as a contingency. There definitely is no future for World War II. It can also be granted that, once unlimited thermonuclear war has broken out, there is no economic war potential to be mobilized for its conduct. Even a broken-backed war would have to be fought overwhelmingly, if not entirely, with munitions on hand at the start of the fighting. ~ Klaus Knorr
Herman Kahn in his tome On Thermonuclear War, has posited that a broken-backed war is implausible, simply because one side would likely absorb vastly more damage than its opposition. As he was writing in the late 1950s, when the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union and the United States numbered in the tens of thousands, the validity of this statement in the modern war can be called into question.
|“||The "broken-back" war notion is obsolete not only because of the possibility of mutual devestation but even more because it is so very unlikely that the forces of both sides would become attrited in even roughly the same way. One side is likely to get a rather commanding advantage and exploit this lead to force the other side to choose bewteen surrender and the physical destruction of its capability to continue. ~ Herman Kahn||”|
During the Cold War, Colonel Virgil Ney hypothesized that a nuclear exchange alone would not be enough to defeat the Soviet Union, and he argued for a modest construction of underground facilities and infrastructure.
In Popular Culture
- Redford, Duncan; Grove, Philip (29 May 2014). The Royal Navy: A History Since 1900 (A History of the Royal Navy). I. B. Tauris. p. 230. ISBN 978-1780767826.
- A book on British military strategy.
- Zellen, Barry Scott (December 2011). State of Doom: Bernard Brodie, The Bomb, and the Birth of the Bipolar World. Continuum. p. 109. ISBN 9781441161345.
- Klaus E. Knorr, The Concept of Economic Potential for War, 1957
- On Thermonuclear War
- Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age