ijuin wrote:The concept of MAD requires that the enemy believe that you are capable of completely destroying them even if they make the first strike. Not just occupying their country and toppling their ruling class, but near-total genocide that will end their existence as a culture (in other words, worse than what was done to Germany in WWII). If an enemy believes that they can survive a war with you, then they will not fear starting one.
Actually, there's reason to believe MAD simply gave an excuse not to start a war nobody wanted to fight all that badly - notice how Eisenhower refused to push to Berlin, despite the fact that it would've inhibited the Soviet nuclear program. As for the lack of cultural destruction of Germany, that never happened because of public outrage when the Morgenthau Plan was leaked(which echoes a similar situation the first Roosevelt faced with the Philippines; neither was happy about having to treat their victims as something approaching humanely) and the fact that the Cold War was already brewing.
There are only two ways that I can think of to accomplish this:
1: Have such an overwhelming advantage in conventional arms that you could conquer them at will.
2: Have weapons capable of killing a large fraction of their population and against which the enemy possesses no effective large-scale defense (probably nuclear, bio, or chemical weapons).
How many serious invasions has Russia suffered? Not many - the capability of soundly defeating any invading army is a deterrent all its own. Naturally, this has the shortfall of not always being projectable to you'd like to rule(see: the fate of just about every empire), but it serves the purpose. Besides, even before the Soviet Union and the United States became MAD-capable, they did have a balance of power of sorts: the US has been able to bring more materiel to bear than anybody else since at least WWI while the USSR had access to immense man-power. Nukes only broadened the scope of destruction.
The thing about option 2 is that it does not require you to have MORE power than your enemy--it only requires that you exceed the threshold needed to devastate their population. Thus, having a hundred nukes can fend off an enemy who has ten thousand. This allows for a multi-polar standoff as opposed to option 1 which implies that a single party holds an undisputed upper hand.
Guerrillas have always been able to give conventional forces a run for their money; only extremely unbalanced situations allow for conquest without tacit assent. As I said before, there is no justification for that level of mass murder, EVER