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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III
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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  132 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
The president loses control of fifty nukes for nearly an hour. Russian nuclear bombers almost bump wingtips with American fighter jets over the Pacific coast. North Korea detonates nuclear weapons underground. Iran’s nuclear shroud is penetrated by a computer worm. Al-Qaeda goes on the hunt for Pakistan’s bomb, and Israelis debate the merit of a preemptive nuclear strike. ...more
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published November 16th 2010)
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May 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: nuclear-war
When you read about the potentialities involved in a nuclear war, you go down a rabbit hole. The things you learn about this terrifying and paradoxical world compel you to find another source, and then another, and then another.

I discovered this after reading Michael Dobbs’s book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, One Minute to Midnight. It struck me how many different moving parts were involved, and how close we came to some of those parts malfunctioning. In writing about the Crisis, most of the att
Mar 29, 2011 Vegantrav rated it really liked it
How the End Begins is both fascinating and frightening. Many people seem to think that the threat of a nuclear holocaust ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the Communist regimes in the former Warsaw Pact states. Those people are completely wrong, and Ron Rosenbaum shows why in How the End Begins.

In fact, in 1995, a nuclear strike was barely averted: the US had launched a scientific rocket for study of the aurora borealis (the northern lights) in Norway. The US had advised
Jan 29, 2014 Mike rated it liked it
Those who know me best know that I've had a profound interest in the subject of nuclear proliferation dating back to high school, having written term papers on the matter and following it closely since. Also, as a Cold War "geek", the topic and concept of "mutually assured destruction" has always been of interest to me, as well as how exactly nuclear weapons would be used and if they are moral to use -- and if so, when?

In this book, Rosenbaum deserves enormous credit for raising several intrigu
Mar 21, 2012 Sheehan rated it really liked it
What a tough book to review, it investigates the paradox of post-Cold War high alert command and control of nuclear weapons in a rapidly changing world that is no longer a dyadic deterrent situation; but a multi-polar, non-state, sometimes martyr-driven, horizontally proliferated array of flash points.

Further, Rosenbaum tries to get to the heart of how you can talk about the reduction of volume of warheads, and/or utility in retaliating without undermining the very deterrent threat of being beli
Othón León
Nov 11, 2012 Othón León rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
An excellent reminder of the ultimate consequence mankind would assume in its (almost) senseless search for power over others and a very good compilation of the times the price was close to be paid, only stopped by other series of fortunate coincidences... Highly recommendable and I guarantee you: once you start it, it's gonna be a very hard thing to do to stop.
Apr 14, 2016 Nick rated it liked it
There is a single core question which underlies the principle of mutually assured destruction, the idea that first use of nuclear weapons is futile, because it will inevitably result in devastating retaliation. That question is "if faced with evidence of an incoming first strike, would those responsible for triggering the retaliatory strike really launch their missiles and all but guarantee nuclear Armageddon?" It's hard to imagine a more nihilistic act, and yet it was the willingness of both th ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Actual rating: 3.0 for content, 2.0 for editing.

Ron Rosenbaum tips his hand very early in this book about the current state of nuclear weapons and the threat that they might still, despite the reduction in tensions between major powers, be used: on page 20 or so, without explanation or clarification, he labels the classic movie On the Beach "nuke porn." Rosenbaum is strongly no-nuke, but who can blame him? His book pretty much explodes the story our betters tell us about the nuclear arsenal: tha
Nuclear weapons are a tool of genocide. Come global thermonuclear war, humanity will probably survive, and rebuild the civilization decades or centuries later; future historians will regard the world leaders who ordered to launch the missiles as the greatest villains in history, more evil than Adolf Hitler. The officers responsible for actually turning the launch keys are not sociopaths; Rosenbaum interviews one, and gets the impression that should the launch order come, he will disobey it, as h ...more
People who get freaked out too much by these topics: avoid this book. Having the background story about that Nuke possibly pointed in your direction is not very good night-time reading material. And if possible mental problems that do or could arise upon reading 'How The End Begins' is beyond both my (as a reviewer) and the Author's control. So, read at own risk.

Well researched. Well written. Brings a reminder to the reader that these weapons are still out there. Too many. And with each passing
John Ambrose
Feb 10, 2013 John Ambrose rated it did not like it

The book raises some interesting and thought-provoking questions, but that's about the only positive.

On the negative side, it's extremely self-indulgent. The author increasingly inserts himself as the book goes on. This practice is distracting at best, and unprofessional at worst. It turns the book into simply a collection of Ron Rosenbaum's meanderings.

Much more seriously, though, Rosenbaum frequently resorts to juvenile language and embarrassingly-bad literary techni
Aug 04, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
.One of the most thought provoking non fictional works on nuclear warfare that I have ever read. Not to be read lightly or quickly due to the "solemnity" of the author's questions and discussions. A book which almost forces the reader to read a few pages or at most a chapter, evaluate the sources found within the notes section, and ponder. Up front, the reason the book does not gain five stars is that the notes section is inconveniently placed at the back of the book and the notes are not tied t ...more
Apr 21, 2011 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Generally speaking, nuclear war is a great, timely topic, and I feel like a more informed person for having read it. Rosenbaum clearly knows a lot about the topic and has access to experts and an ocean of primary sources. He's also passionate about the topic, and I always appreciate pages that overflow with enthusiasm.

The book itself, however, wasn't great. I certainly lost steam at around page 200. Though a lot of research was done for the book, the writing style made it feel under-researched.
Akira Watts
Dec 06, 2015 Akira Watts rated it liked it
Intriguing premise, and quite terrifying. The strongest sections involve the inherent flaws in nuclear weapons command and control, as well as the morality of deterence.

The problem is Rosenbaum's prose is irritating, he gets derailed by a lengthy digression on Israel, and the book itself has been outpaced by history.
Aug 23, 2011 Noah rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot, and while I expected it to be a little dry and wonky it wasn't. There are two particularly interesting themes to the book: one is that there is something inherently absurd about nuclear weapons. You can't talk about the logic of nuclear arsenals without it all turning very Strangeloveian. Rosenbaum focuses in particular on the deterrence paradox, where once you're already doomed, retaliating is just pointless mass murder, and yet if you acknowledge that fact you undermin ...more
May 31, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: nuclear, weapons, wwiii
Very sobbering. How have we gotten so far without blowing ourselves up.
Phil Overeem
Apr 05, 2011 Phil Overeem rated it really liked it
This is required reading for anyone who thinks nuclear war is deterred into a non-issue. Rosenbaum (as he usually does with whatever subject's obsessing him) creates a clear and detailed picture of the current state of nuclear armament, the people in control of its use and their philosophies, and the nightmarishly plausible scenarios that could make tomorrow gone forever. Philosophically dogged and NOT unfunny--but serious as a heart attack, too.
Oct 27, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
A more interesting prospect than it turned out to be. Far from the apocalyptic nightmare or incendiary warning from history, this reads like a rather aloof bitter diatribe against putting idiots in charge of big weapons.
Written from a calculably American POV, though only distinguishable from the constant reference to 'OUR west coast' and OUR nuclear umbrella', this turned out to be far more tedious than it appeared.
Don't bother.
Mar 18, 2011 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published 2011

The author uses specific examples and direct dialogue to show that the world has been and is now on the hair-trigger alert brink of starting a nuclear war. It gives examples of words and communications that are misunderstood, etc., as well as mistakes that have prevented countries from launching nuclear attacks.
Steve Morris
Apr 22, 2013 Steve Morris rated it really liked it
Written largely from the USAs perspective, the book starts well with much to be learned from the early chapters.

It does descend a little into personal views the more the book progresses.
Mar 14, 2013 Destina rated it really liked it
This book is both chilling and thought-provoking. In light of recent events in, and threats from, North Korea and Iran, I found the author's warnings and examples even more compelling.
Clay Davis
Nov 30, 2012 Clay Davis rated it it was ok
I learned things about the nuclear forces of the world. The writer shows too much anti militar feelings. A very bais book.
Apr 20, 2012 Oliver rated it really liked it
While informative, very scary and depressing.
Aug 24, 2011 Steve rated it liked it
"Scary and thought provoking."
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