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Arsenals of Folly Audio CD – January 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Books on Tape (2007)
  • ASIN: B000WXEA38
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,630,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It's a fascinating and involving book that you'll have a hard time putting down.
Wayne Klein
The reflections at the end of this book about the collapse of the Soviet Union and our own country's current path will stay with you for days.
M K A
Unlike the two previous book, Rhodes does not do a great job of synthesizing the information and presenting it as its own.
R. C Sheehy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes jumps back into the fire of nuclear physics with his latest book "Arsenals of Folly: The Making of The Nuclear Arms Race". Here Rhodes tackles the history of the nuclear arms race from the explosion of "Joe" the first Soviet atomic bomb to the arms escalation and he documents how close we have come on a number of occasions to use these weapons of mass destruction. To give a better overview of the time Rhodes also focuses on the various peace treaties, the development of "Star Wars" (no, not the movie)and Reagan's obsession with trying to engage Gorbachov in trying to defuse the arms race.

Beginning with the accident at Chernobyl in 1986 and covering the history of both the United States and Russia as they became involved in their nuclear war dance throughout the latter part of the 20th century, Rhodes uses information demonstrating that the disinformation that we've seen within government recently to shape public opinion has been going on for the last 40 years (big surprise!) creating circumstances that allowed the arms race to escalate out of control. Rhodes begins with Chernobyl (later covering the history of detente and the roles of various presidents before Reagan and Gorbachov sat down to try and rid the world of nuclear arms)because the plant itself was designed to do dual duty as both a reactor and a source of plutonium for weapons. The accident changed Gorbachov's perspective on the destruction that could result from a nuclear device simply because the damage to the environment and human life from Chernobyl was life a small nuclear device going off. This opened the way for more open and honest discussion on how to reduce the world's nuclear arsenal.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was very interested in reading this book and when I saw the title I must admit I was very excited and looked forward to what I expected would be a history of the development of the nuclear arms race. Where this book went wrong in my opinion, was that it focused exclusively on the end of the Cold War. That would have been fine but the book spoke of the making of the arms race and instead focused on its conclusion.

The book begins promisingly enough with a compelling account of the Chernobyl disaster, but then it becomes a repeat of various memoirs from various members of the Regan administration and Mikhail Gorbachev. Unlike the two previous book, Rhodes does not do a great job of synthesizing the information and presenting it as its own. This seems to be nothing more than reheated left overs.

The far more promising concept and what Rhodes fans were expecting was a history of the development of Nuclear Weapons, far more history on the SALT and START talks and the development of delivery vehicles. The background history of the poor state of the Soviet economy was very good and more attention should have been placed on it, but sadly that was focused on details of the Geneva meeting place.

All in all this was a tough read and for certain is the third of Richard Rhodes three books on the development of the nuclear arms race.
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45 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar VINE VOICE on October 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Rhodes is perhaps the foremost nuclear historian of our time. His past two books (among many others on extremely varied subjects) on the making of the atomic and hydrogen bombs are landmark historical studies. But as readers of those books would know, they were much more than nuclear histories. They were riveting epic chronicles of war and peace, science and politics in the twentieth century and human nature. In both books, Rhodes discussed in detail other issues, such as the Soviet bomb effort and Soviet espionage in the US.

In this book which can be considered the third installment in his nuclear histories (a fourth and final one is also due), Rhodes takes a step further and covers the arms race from the 1950s onwards. He essentially proceeds where he left off, and discusses the maddening arms buildups of the 60s, 70s and 80s. One of the questions our future generations are going to ask is; why do we have such a monstrous legacy of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the earth many times over? The answer cannot be deterrence because much fewer would have sufficed for that. How did we inherit this evil of our times?

Much of the book is devoted to answering this question, and the answer is complex. It involves a combination of paranoia generated by ignorance of what the other side was doing, but more importantly threat inflation engendered by hawks in government who used the Soviet threat as a political selling point in part to further their own aims and careers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas B. Wilson on December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Richard Rhodes' Arsenals of Folly is a thoughtful book that will leave many readers very unsettled. Rhodes examines America's and Soviet Russia's nuclear weapons policies with special emphasis on the Reagan-Gorbachev negotiations that along with their aftermaths greatly assisted Gorbachev in successfully unwinding the Cold War. The root policy for both nations, from the beginning of the Cold War until its end, was to bluster, threaten, and temporize. Politicians in both nations framed their policy to suit their times and to yield to dominant opinions. Obscurantic discussions of nuclear war bored most post-World War II presidents, leaving the development of policy, its supervision, and its auditing to others. It was only when Reagan and Gorbachev came to power both with the idea arrived at separately, that the two nations needed to terminate nuclear weapons and the Cold War that progress was possible.
Rhodes hammers hard on several important themes. The foremost is that politicians and analysts in both nations after Hiroshima continued to frame nuclear policy as if nuclear arms might be practical weapons, or at least necessary for deterrence. Neither thought, Rhodes argues, provides sound support for the accumulation of nuclear weapons. Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a still lingering remnant of this logic.
In his effort to write a compelling history, Rhodes dresses the players in black hats and white hats (or perhaps shades of gray) and leaves off the complicating Shakespearian irony of the tale. To wit: It is unlikely that a president perceived as "left-leaning" could have effectively participated in initiating the end of the Cold War.
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