Soviet military science considered nuclear warfare a military revolution, and I’m inclined to agree. As John Robb once pointed out, it was definitely the biggest revolution in war that (thankfully) never occured. On the tactical and operational level, it had rather severe implications for ground forces. Everyone is familiar with the Pentomic system, which in some ways was an earlier precursor to the extreme dispersion of contemporary Distributed Operations, Enhanced Company Operations, and netwar concepts. Dispersed teams would move quickly, exploiting airmobility, to avoid concentration for nuclear targeting. This died along with the entire idea of Massive Retaliation and we soon moved on to the more traditional ROAD organizational structure. And, of course, an entire science was built around the strategic level of targeting and nuclear strike, and the resulting gigantic cybernetic command and control infrastructure eventually led to the conventional birth of our current C4ISR regime.
The biggest debate in nuclear strategy, however, was whether the term was an oxymoron. If a nuclear war didn’t lead to what we would understand as “victory” and it was impossible to actually use the weapons for anything except theoretical coercion, did nuclear warfighting mark a final discontinuity in the classical tradition of strategy? Colin S. Gray thought not, and wrote a famous article calling for a “theory of victory” in nuclear strategy. I tend to lean towards Gray’s side on this, largely because in theoretical terms a “victory” was possible–and nuclear warfare is governed by Clausewitz just like anything else. Of course, I’m also a big fan of Gray’s criticism of arms control regimes too.
Most writing about nuclear strategy today has been replaced by an arms control framework. I suspect that the value of the nuclear strategy canon will be rediscovered when we discover, contrary to dreams of “global zero”, that nuclear arms development and use is–like anything else–driven by politics that technical limitations have no impact on.