Cirincione’s book is divided into two parts. The first is a pamphlet size synopsis of nuclear science and the early years of the bomb. He recaps briefCirincione’s book is divided into two parts. The first is a pamphlet size synopsis of nuclear science and the early years of the bomb. He recaps briefly policy breakthroughs (SALT I and II, START, SDI, etc…) and provides a good primer for those interested in atomic weapons. The second section is much larger and more detailed. It focuses on today’s nuclear world the policy implications of a post Cold War nuclear planet. Today’s biggest nuclear threat comes not from nation states, but from a select group of terrorist groups fixated on apocalyptic destruction. Al Qaeda is one such group. Terrorists hunting for the bomb are likely to look in destabilized post-Soviet nations or in radical states such as Pakistan. He explains the shift in U.S. foreign policy brought on by neoconserviates such as Elliot Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld. These men distrust treaties and argue that they rarely have tangible benefits on US security. Instead the propose unilateral action to force regime changes and re-stabilize a dangerous world proactively.
- Nuclear threat validates the rationality of neo-cons love of preemptive attacks, as preventing a nuclear attack before it happens is the only acceptable outcome. - Libya’s abandonment of their nuclear program in 2003 marked a success for the Bush administration, but one not in line with the regime change aspect of neoconservative policymakers.
Despite the Iraq war and it’s numerous failures for the Bush administration (N. Korea more aggressively pursuing its nuclear program, an increase in Al Qaeda adherents and attacks, etc…), luckly proliferation should continue to decrease in the years to come. Cirincione offers some nuclear solutions.
- The most effective way to prevent nuclear terrorism “is to secure nuclear weapons and materials at the source. Acquiring weapons and materials is the hardest step for terrorists to take and the easiest for us to stop.” (141) focus should be on Russian material. Some covert bi-lateral actions during the past 20 years have done just this. - Prevent nuclear fuel rods from becoming nuclear bombs (144). - Preventing new states (149). ...more
I really like this book. It's divided up into short, easily digestible chapters, which is a must when you are detailing the formation of nascent nucleI really like this book. It's divided up into short, easily digestible chapters, which is a must when you are detailing the formation of nascent nuclear strategy. Trachtenberg shows how the earliest nuclear strategists were not historically minded scholars or military men, but instead economic theoriests who were heavily influenced by Game Theory. Today, these are common facts, but before History & Strategy, thinkers like Bernard Brodie were not getting the due they deserve. While primarily focused on nuclear strategy, this book also examines more particular instances of strategy in history, including the days leading up to WWI and the Berlin Crisis. ...more
Rhodes third book in his 25 year long trilogy about the making of Atomic Weaponry (see all THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB and DARK SUN: THE MAKING OF TRhodes third book in his 25 year long trilogy about the making of Atomic Weaponry (see all THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB and DARK SUN: THE MAKING OF THE HYDROGEN BOMB) is a somewhat hurried affair. The book begins with a recap of the tragedy at Chernobyl and follows with a brief sketch of Gorbachev's early life and his rise to Soviet Power. Then, Rhodes summarizes atomic weaponry and strategy--really his first two books--in the matter of a chapter. Then, he moves on to the precarious relationship between the Superpowers in the Reagan Era. Here, Rhodes takes a decidedly pro-Gorbachev/Anti-Reagan stance on the Anti-nuclear discussions at Reykjavik. More precisely, he singles out Richard Pearle as stumping the negotiations for complete and total disarmament. He concludes by noting that the arms race did little to leave any society on earth safe and quotes Carl Sagan's numbers in stating that nuclear dollars might have been used to feed, clothe, and give health insurance to everyone in America if not the globe. In sum, his is a leftist, pro-disarmament view of the arms race.
The book acts as a good primer for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the arms race, but this is a decidedly left-leaning book--which means, of course, those of the right should certainly read it. Even those who were (or remain) pro-disarmament might find Rhodes arguments too sweeping, his conclusions too clear cut. He certainly does not paint a pretty portrait of President Reagan (those interested in Reagan should probably look at either Lou Cannon's THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME or Francis Fitzgerald's WAY OUT THERE IN THE BLUE). Rhodes views Reagan as a simple-minded movie buff who refused to budge in the face of Gorbachev's pleas to give up SDI...which, I think, might essentially be true, if less than nuanced. But right-leaning politicians, such as Alexander Haig or Pat Buchanan, would agree with these arguments, all within the most positive of lights. Overall, ARSENALS OF FOLLY reads more as a polemic against neo-conservative politics and nuclear strategy and less as a history of a complicated and dangerous era. But for those curious about the events at Reykjavik in 1986, this is a must read. ...more
In this update of the Ernest May original, Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow’s Essence of Decision offers three different models through which to inteIn this update of the Ernest May original, Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow’s Essence of Decision offers three different models through which to interpret the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first model, the Rational Actor Model (or RAM), provides a paradigm that describes rational actors’ methods to maximize political and diplomatic utility. The second model, the Organizational Behavior Model, accounts for the influence of organizations and institutions on decision making processes. The third and final model, which focuses on governmental politics, examines how separated institutions share power and the effects of group processes on decision making. Each of the book’s three sections begins by explaining a particular model and then finishes by applying that model to the events of October 1962. The result is a thought provoking but inconclusive look at the most dangerous thirteen days of the atomic era. Allison and Zelikow never take a firm stance on the correct method of analysis for the crisis. The end result is a book meant to inform and advise policymakers on how to read this historic event that never actually does so. What the book does make clear is the influence economic theory has had on IR theory and policy decisions. For example, the first chapter’s use of the Rational Actor Model is clearly based on the homo economus givens used in nearly all economic models. The connections that Allison and Zelikow fail to make, however, provide a more interesting analysis than the book’s contents. Put simply, the authors never explicitly recognize how their models are based in a western economic tradition. These models rely heavily on the maximization of utility and the minimization of threat or danger. The minimax theorem, as first formulated in 1944 by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, seems to have influenced all policy decisions of the Cold War. Keynesian economics of government intervention, combined with Chandler’s insights into the rise of the managerial class, combine with game theory to provide an almost fatal mistake of nuclear proportion. Von Neumann and General Curtis LeMay both endorsed a first strike against the Soviet Union at early points in the Cold War based on such logic. The authors also never effectively show how both sides of a nuclear balance require equal information of the effects and repercussions resulting in a first or second strike. MAD establishes this balance. Put simply, they pronounce their biases of political and diplomatic theory by espousing models based in western economic logic. Yet these models are applied to a situation in which the other side, the USSR, based its political ideology in opposition to such western based economic theories. Why is this divide never examined? How stable was the balance between the nuclear superpowers if each side based their diplomacy on completely different ideologies? In all fairness, these critiques do not address the book on its own merits. Yet these comments reveal an unforeseen argument inherent in Essence of Decision: It is a work that offers no conclusive advice on how to approach policymaking, yet Allison and Zelikow have utilized modernity-based models and economics to endorse a sort of post-modern inconclusiveness. If nothing else, the book shows just how lucky the superpowers were in escaping nuclear war in October of 1962. ...more
The Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility outside of Denver acted as a producer of bomb materials throughout the cold war. In Making a Real Killing, LeThe Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility outside of Denver acted as a producer of bomb materials throughout the cold war. In Making a Real Killing, Len Ackland tells the story of this weapons plant, it’s employees and neighbors. Utilizing a mixture of personal narratives and investigatory journalism, Ackland paints a vivid picture of cold war induced deception and outright ignorance. He argues that Americans were never well informed about the risks and dangers of this (or any) nuclear plant, and that the legacy of Rocky Flats lives on—in the form of a severe environmental hazard. What makes Killing so effective is its stylistic use of journalistic narrative. At page one we are introduced to Charlie McKay, a rancher who still lives and works near Rocky Flats. A brief outline of his family history gets the reader invested, and this sets the tone for the book. Killing is not a singular examination of cold war weapons production, environmental protests or political agendas, although all of these aspects are covered with clarity and insight. This is a book about the average working men and women whose lives are affected by Rocky Flats through their health, employment and a changing environment. Built in 1958, Rocky Flats weapon facility viewed as a source of employment for the region and income for its inhabitants. Ackland uses direct quotes from these regular, working-class Americans who day in and day out produced weapons of mass destruction. The understood that there was risk involved, but the nature and extent was never explained to them, ultimately leading to multiple cases of cancer caused by plutonium radiation and beryllium poisoning. Ackland also explores how uninformed their supervisors were as well. In the 1950’s there was only a nascent understanding of the properties of plutonium, and safety questions were regularly put aside in the name of national security. But safety was a major issue that came to the fore a number of times. Ackland describes the glove boxes used to handle plutonium, and how their flawed design and decay never led to major a reconfiguration for workers. Costs took precedent to employees. Ackland also recounts in precise detail two fires at Rocky Flats and the ignorance of management on how to deal with them. In the process of putting out the second fire they contaminated the entire plant. Hindsight suggests it was a miracle they didn’t contaminate all of Denver. In the management’s defense, they were simply following their instructions to “expect a fire, but produce.” Killings flowing narrative and depth of research makes it an insightful for the student of Cold War and nuclear history. History “buffs” will also find it enjoyable due to its use of working class quotes and explanations. Ackland excels at showing all sides of the Rocky Flats plant, from the ground up. Some might find disappointment is his conclusion. For all the build up of conspiracy and illusion, Rocky Flats innocuous end may fall short of reader expectations. But such an ending is both historically accurate and fitting for a book on the cold war. We should feel fortunate that it went out with a whimper instead of a bang. ...more