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The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics
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The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  99 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
A leading international security strategist offers a compelling new way to "think about the unthinkable."

The cold war ended more than two decades ago, and with its end came a reduction in the threat of nuclear weapons—a luxury that we can no longer indulge. It’s not just the threat of Iran getting the bomb or North Korea doing something rash; the whole complexion of global
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Times Books
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Peter Mcloughlin
this book is a scary book. It looks at a gap in our military outlook. The cold war is now looked at as deviation from rationality with huge nuclear arsenal. This view is taken on the cold war because people only remember the deterence aspect of nuclear policy. Nuclear weapons are sought after by states for many reasons besides simple deterence. The possesion of a nuclear arsenal not only deters against invasion but also gives a country offensive capability. A country can act more agressively aga ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Jon-Erik rated it really liked it
The central thesis of this book is that we need a new nuclear policy for a different, multipolar nuclear world. It's very true. Most anything you read about the status of our nuclear forces today is not heartening.

Though it isn't the central thesis, the critical argument that makes this thesis ring true is the fact that nuclear weapons have a use, even if you don't fire them. Bracken illustrates several scenarios, results of war games, and historical precedents where the mere presence of nuclea
Jun 20, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it
Concisely-written and brisk to read, "The Second Nuclear Age" offers up a very frightening perspective on an arms race that the American public is largely blind to at this juncture. Paul Bracken looks at the future of nuclear proliferation as an inevitable race for developing nations to build their own nuclear weapons and negotiate with the original nuclear powers as a peer. Mr. Bracken firmly believes in the traditional deterrence doctrine of nuclear weapons as useful when unused, and he does s ...more
Everything you think you know is mostly wrong. Nuclear weapons still matter to everyone else, if not the United States. Bracken gives an excellent explanation why.
Mar 25, 2016 Jewel rated it liked it
long story short, we do not live in the Cold War era anymore and leading powers are long overdue in adjusting nuclear strategy accordingly. a multipolar world requires more complex strategy to manage ever-evolving technology and subsystems than the bipolar, Cold War did and not much has happened to remedy this situation. nuclear powers who signed the NPT have not rid themselves of their weapons, thus nukes have proliferated and will most likely continue to do so in regional areas such as the Mid ...more
Oct 26, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it
This book is a splash of cold water to the face for those of us raised in the Cold War. While we in the United States have lost our focus on the geopolitical implications of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world, the rest of the world hasn't, with Pakistan, North Korea and India starting or expanding nuclear programs and Iran poised to join the nuclear club. This book is a welcome reminder that nuclear strategy is still immensely important and that we have taken a 20 year holiday from think ...more
Steve Smits
Dec 03, 2012 Steve Smits rated it really liked it
Professor Bracken brings needed attention to the nuclear issues and dangers facing the world in the post-Cold War era. He demonstrates that our current policy on nuclear arms, while focusing on the important matter of non-proliferation, significantly neglects to strategically analyze and respond to the reality that nuclear weapons exist (and won't go away) in the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. The presence of nuclear weapons in countries like Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea -- and l ...more
Apr 21, 2016 Nick rated it liked it
I wouldn't say that Bracken is a Pollyanna on the subject of the future of nuclear weapons, but he makes a compelling argument that whether we love the bomb or not, we'll be living with it for the foreseeable future, and if we don't think about what that means for our engagements with other nations then we're likely to find ourselves making major decision at times of crisis. The recent nuclear arms agreement with Iran might change some of the calculations a bit, but much of what's discussed is a ...more
Heather Marie
I agreed with his conclusions about needing to change our thinking about nuclear policy, and the shift in regional dynamics, but I also wholeheartedly disagree with much of his evidence. He makes the US out to be much more apathetic toward nuclear weapons than it actually is, and I feel that he plays down the importance of first strike capabilities, the US' arsenal, and the nuclear taboo to make his point. It is more of a 3.5 for me, but since I do agree with his ends, I gave him the benefit.
Lee Spitzer
Mar 13, 2013 Lee Spitzer rated it it was ok
Paul Bracken from Yale University urges us to think more systematically and creatively about the role nuclear weapons are playing in the twenty-first century, which he characterizes as being part of the second nuclear age.

Stylistically, the book is non-technical and quite readable, but he repeats himself too often; a good editor could have shortened his argument by several dozen pages. The charts are almost insulting in their simplicity; were they taken from poorly designed powerpoint presentati
Raj Agrawal
May 11, 2015 Raj Agrawal rated it really liked it
This is a good overview of how nuclear weapons play a role in a multipolar international system. The scenarios presented are plausible, and the courses of action are good starting points for discussion.

While non-state actors are largely ignored, this book provides a thoughtful primer for modern nuclear strategy.
Peter Rooijmans
Jan 27, 2016 Peter Rooijmans rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author describes the spread of nuclear weapons. He describes the ways, in which nuclear capabilities have in the past influenced foreign policy choices and options.
He concludes, that the US should spend more thought on the consequences of a multipolar nuclear world for its own nuclear policies.

Feb 22, 2016 Tripp rated it really liked it
The opening and closing chapters are great. In them, Bracken persuasively argues that the theoretical models that guided thinking about nuclear weapons in the Cold War are no longer sufficient. The detail chapters are good, but mostly as guides to thinking about what might happen. It's a useful corrective against complacency.
John Schneider
Mar 30, 2013 John Schneider rated it it was amazing
When I picked this book up, I expected a dry but insightful look at nuclear strategy for the 21st century. "The Second Nuclear Age" was far more interesting and much more engaging than I expected; it was also quite succinct in its analysis which enabled it to cover a great deal of ground without repetition. If you are looking for an exhaustive analysis of nuclear strategy and every scenario imaginable, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a book that introduces you to a new way of thinking up ...more
Jul 12, 2014 Sherri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone!
For those of us who grew up with the cold war, this is a must-read to understand the changed landscape of nuclear weapons and war. MAD may be more unlikely, but maddening behavior by young nuclear states is happening more than we think. For those who are too young to remember the cold war, it's a primer to nuclear war, weapons, tactics and strategy for the current nuclear age. Nuclear weapons are very much alive and spreading. The major powers need strong new policies, strategy and tactics that ...more
Raj Agrawal
May 11, 2015 Raj Agrawal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Westphalian-perspective primer on modern nuclear strategy

This is a good overview of how nuclear weapons play a role in a multipolar international system. The scenarios presented are plausible, and the courses of action are good starting points for discussion.

While non-state actors are largely ignored, this book provides a thoughtful primer for modern nuclear strategy.
Aug 25, 2013 Becca rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-nonfiction
Thank you for my First Reads copy!
The two stars are for writing quality. I suppose the author was aiming to make this an easy read for a general audience, but what he achieved was immature writing. I couldn't get past it because it affected the tone of the book, which should have been urgent and frightening.
Dave Leaumont
Mar 25, 2013 Dave Leaumont rated it it was amazing
Good comprehensive discussion on the topic of nuclear strategy and how 21st century thought has changed that of the Cold War. The world has grown increasingly more complex and dangerous since that time and there are many nuclear hurdles to overcome to continue 67 years of peace from major wars.
Feb 17, 2013 Matthew rated it really liked it
After twenty years of *not* thinking about deterrence, mutual-assured destruction and the rest, Bracken makes me rethink nuclear weapons. His opinions about war, peace, and international diplomacy are ruthless but stunning. Excellent read, with provocative conclusions.
Jim Powell
A sobering book on the dynamics of the multipolar, post-Cold War nuclear world. Bracken makes a strong case for thinking through the relatively unexplored issues of how nuclear powers--large or small--might use these weapons in pursuit of their interests.
Jan 01, 2016 Michaël rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
Paul Bracken's work is a refreshing view on one of the most contentious problems of our epoch: a second nuclear age.
Louis C Smith
Feb 02, 2013 Louis C Smith rated it it was amazing
Bracken shows that the US nuclear policy is stuck in the 1960 Cold War. The 2nd nuclear age is here and the US is facing the wrong direction. A must read if you expect to be around more than 10 years.
Craig Fiebig
Mar 02, 2013 Craig Fiebig rated it really liked it
We treat the use of nuclear weapons in a simplistic, ignorant manner and pretend the lessons of the Cold War are applicable in the multi polar world at our peril.
Mar 30, 2014 C. added it
Shelves: ir, nukes
when asked why France needed an independent nuclear deterrent, de Gaulle famously shot back, "so we get incurred to arms control conferences."
Mary Storm
Jul 22, 2013 Mary Storm rated it really liked it
Worth reading. At times repetitive and pedantic, but also discusses the post-Cold War issues of nuclear proliferation about which we should all know.
Randi Buros
Jan 16, 2013 Randi Buros rated it it was amazing
Not an exhaustive treatment, but an excellent discussion on the more subtle uses (and non-uses) of national military power.
John DeRosa
Asking the right questions and wargaming under the multipolar nuclear context
Jan 15, 2013 Douglas rated it liked it
interesting; makes a wide range of good arguments a little too oppositionally
Apr 03, 2013 PWRL marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2013-new
Willem Jan
Willem Jan marked it as to-read
Aug 27, 2016
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