During the past year, indications that the Bush White House was seriously considering a "nuclear option" against Iranian nuclear sites understandably alarmed many in the press and public as well as the U.S. high command. Some treated such alleged planning as saber-rattling bluff, while others saw it as an example of a related madman strategy. These scenarios are not without historical precedent. From time to time during the Cold War and after, American officials tried to find ways of making nuclear weapons usable, not only for deterrence against Soviet attack but as "tactical" weapons in local conflicts or as a key element in a coercive strategy of threat-making by means of "atomic diplomacy."
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