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Book Chapter

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Much of the debate over nuclear weapons policy continues to revolve around discussions of the usefulness of nuclear attacks on military targets. Much less attention, however, is devoted to either the number or the importance of the civilian casualties that such attacks would cause. The short-term civilian casualties that would result from the use of nuclear weapons at three different levels of "limited nuclear war" are considered. These levels range from the employment of neutron bombs during an otherwise "conventional" battle in the Germanies to a nuclear attack against the strategic forces of the U.S. In addition, the consequences of all-out attacks by the superpowers on each other's cities are briefly discussed. It is found that nuclear planners and strategists have almost always grossly underestimated the human costs of the use of nuclear weapons.


Originally published in:

John Duffield and Frank von Hippel "The Short-term Consequences of Nuclear War for Civilians," in The Environmental Effects of Nuclear War, edited by Julius London and Gilbert F. White (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984): 19-64.