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Counterforce can be defined as an opposing or a contrary force, particularly a military force that is capable of destructing the nuclear armaments that belong to an enemy.  Counterforce ensures that the adversary is disarmed by destructing its nuclear weapons earlier before they can be launched, and by this way, the impact of a retributive second strike is minimized. It is true that a counterforce target does not include an adversary’s population, political, or economic resources. A perfect counterforce attack would not kill any civilian. Military attacks have a tendency to causing collateral harm however. Particularly, this is very true as the nuclear weapons are used. In nuclear terms it has been found that most of the military targets are placed very close to civilian centers, such that if a major counterforce strike takes place, a number of civilian causalities will possibly result. Irrespective of the number and size of nuclear warheads, civilians will be threatened as long as the weapons are close to civilian centers (Lee, 1996).  

Counterforce operations have been found to be the most effective in forbidding the use of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which include, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, at the commencement of a conflict. At the same time, the counterforce operations can be used to confuse, disorientate, and disorganize the forces of any given adversary.  Most of the people persistently believe that, the capability to fight, endure, and win a nuclear war makes the only really efficacious deterrent, and counterforce is the preferred strategy for these people (Hilsman, 1999). 

It is apparent that counterforce is very important when it comes to damage limiting by the process of offensive action. Damage limitation can also come about due to defensive measures. If a country’s counterforce strike against an enemy is successful, it can indubitably limit the damage the enemy could cause the country. Counterforce operations will to a greater extent contribute to success in the time of war. The word damage-limiting is in a useful manner limited to describing the capabilities, defensive or offensive, that attempt to diminish the damage which the adversary can possibly inflict upon a country. This appropriates the expression ‘damage avoidance’ for the weapons systems, strategies, and warheads through which a nation would attempt to minimize the damage it would have to impose upon an enemy during the military operation. It has been found that a damage avoiding attack calls for the employment of accurate, small-sized warheads, and very accurate missiles to eliminate those weapons of the adversary with the slightest practicable harm to the adversary’s people as well as economy (Lee, 1996).

By Lee (1996), a perfect weapon for damage avoidance will destroy the weapons for enemies without harming their troops. Apparently, this will leave the adversary without a way to retaliate, and at the same time holding the adversary open to the coercive power of the weapons just like the involved nation will withhold from their counterforce strike. To diminish the enemy potential to impose damage on nations such as United States, offensive and defensive are the two ways which are employed. This is to eliminate by counterforce assail enemy missiles as well as other systems which are to deliver the warheads even before they can leave their forces. By this way, counterforce attack reduces the susceptibility of a nation by improvements in peaceful defenses as well as developing effectual antimissile systems of defense. By use of offensive, the capability of the enemy is curtailed by diminishing the total number of warheads which could be thrown at the involved nation.    

According to Hilsman (1999), counterforce is a relatively effective strategy due to the following reasons: it is much easier to identify the location of an enemy weapon and attack it earlier before it is operational or is fired; and as well counterforce is found efficient and effective at the margins. The targets are frequently stationary and their whereabouts can be ascertained beforehand. This means that, to target the operating and storage facilities is easier as compared to destroying missile warheads which are traveling in the direction of a target at a very high speed. The fixed targets are comparatively large and at times located anterior to hostilities, meaning that they are susceptible to be destroyed as compared to moving individual weapons.

Counterforce attacks are seen to be more efficient as compared to active defenses since they stretch forth the prospect of destroying lots of warheads or delivery systems with comparatively few weapons. In this case, it is true that expenditure rates on weapons favor counterforce to a greater extent such that a given nation can easily afford the option. For example, it is relatively easy to destroy ten warheads on a missile that is in its silo as compared to destroying individual ten warheads during which they speed in the direction of their targets. Surely, as one adopts an infrastructure of weapons system from individual warhead to the facilities of production, counterforce’s effectiveness at the margins gets readily obvious. Using the counterforce, there is an increased probability to destroy lots of missiles by attacking the facilities of assembly-fueling-mating as well as to destroy the big number of delivery vehicles by assailing the facilities for their storage. By stretching out the prospect of destroying a number of individual weapons at the same time, counterforce has been found to be the most efficient constituent of a theater missile defense effort (Hilsman, 1999).

According to Lee (1996), counterforce strategists reason that with sufficient counterforce capacity, a country can inflict a bargain that is not favorable to its opponent. By the intra-war hindrance that is provided by the counterforce capacity, a country can have its opponent to discontinue attacking, and this can be achieved in a way that is to the country’s relative advantage. It is of great importance when a country ensures that the opponent accepts a larger component of the restraint burden would there be projections concerning the war to be suitably limited. Through the use of its counterforce capability in forcing the opponents to pick out restraint, the country can have the most effectual way of attaining a suitable limited nuclear war.   


Hilsman, R., (1999). From Nuclear Military Strategy to a World Without War. New York: Praeger.

Lee, S., (1996). Morality, Prudence, and Nuclear Weapons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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