Countervalue

Countervalue

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Encyclopedia
Countervalue is the targeting of an opponent's cities and civilian populations. In contrast, counterforce
Counterforce
In nuclear strategy, a counterforce target is one that has a military value, such as a launch silo for intercontinental ballistic missiles, an airbase at which nuclear-armed bombers are stationed, a homeport for ballistic missile submarines, or a command and control installation...

 refers to the targeting of an opponent's military personnel, forces and facilities.

Theory


In nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

, enemy targets can be divided into two general types; counterforce
Counterforce
In nuclear strategy, a counterforce target is one that has a military value, such as a launch silo for intercontinental ballistic missiles, an airbase at which nuclear-armed bombers are stationed, a homeport for ballistic missile submarines, or a command and control installation...

 military targets and countervalue civilian targets.

The rationale behind countervalue targeting is that when two sides have both achieved assured destruction
Assured destruction
Assured destruction is a concept sometimes used in deterrence theory and military strategy discussions to describe a condition where certain behaviors or choices are deterred because they will lead to the imposition by others of overwhelming punitive consequences. It was most often discussed as...

 capability—that is, that the nuclear arsenals of each side have the apparent ability to survive a wide range of counterforce attacks, and counterattack—then, in an all-out nuclear war, the value of targeting the opponent's nuclear arsenal diminishes, and the value of targeting the opponent's cities and civilians increases. This line of reasoning, however, assumes that the opponent values its civilians over its military forces.

One view argues that countervalue targeting upholds nuclear deterrence because both sides are more likely to believe in each other's no first use
No first use
No first use refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons...

 policy. The line of reasoning is that if an aggressor strikes first with nuclear weapons against an opponent's countervalue targets, then, by definition, such an attack does not degrade the opponent's military capacity to retaliate.

The opposing view however, counters that countervalue targeting is neither moral nor credible because if an aggressor should strike first with nuclear weapons against only a limited number of a defender's counterforce military targets, the defender should not retaliate in this situation against the aggressor's civilian populace.

However, another moral position is that because they are the aggressor, and therefore are starting the conflict, they should not be treated with a "gloves on" approach, as that would give further incentive to be an aggressor.

International Law


The intentional targeting of civilians with military force, including nuclear weapons, is prohibited by international law. In particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention
Fourth Geneva Convention
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians...

 prevents attacks on certain types of civilian targets and the Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

 states that civilian objects are not acceptable military targets. (Not all states are party to Protocol I.) Nonetheless, "proportional" collateral damage
Collateral damage
Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

 is allowed, which could justify attacks on military objectives in cities.

See also

  • First strike
    First strike
    In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing...

  • Second strike
    Second strike
    In nuclear strategy, a second strike capability is a country's assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacker...

  • Counterforce
    Counterforce
    In nuclear strategy, a counterforce target is one that has a military value, such as a launch silo for intercontinental ballistic missiles, an airbase at which nuclear-armed bombers are stationed, a homeport for ballistic missile submarines, or a command and control installation...

  • Mutually Assured Destruction
  • Deterrence theory
    Deterrence theory
    Deterrence theory gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and features prominently in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear technology in North Korea and Iran. Deterrence theory however was...

  • Peace through strength
    Peace through strength
    "Peace through strength" is a conservative slogan supporting military strength for the purpose of creating peaceful international relations.For supporters of the MX missile in the 1970s, the missile symbolized "peace through strength." The phrase was popular in political rallies during 1988...

  • Balance of terror
    Balance of terror
    The phrase "balance of terror" is usually used in reference to the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War....

  • Balance of power in international relations
    Balance of power in international relations
    In international relations, a balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. The concept describes a state of affairs in the international system and explains the behavior of states in that system...