Thomas Reed is certainly one of the most qualified people alive to tell the real story of the Cold War. He worked at Livermore Labs as early as 1959 and was involved in designing and testing nuclear weapons, he served as Secretary of the Air Force, Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and as a Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Policy. Even when he was not directly involved in shaping policy, he was studying and lecturing on the subject. At the Abyss
is the result of his remarkable experience, and it is as fascinating as it is terrifying, for he reveals just how close the world came on many occasions to experiencing the horror of global nuclear war. The book is filled with intrigue and revelations as he sheds new light on even relatively well-known events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here he reveals that as many as 98 nuclear weapons were located in Cuba, not ! just a few as originally thought. He also reports on what transpired during closed meetings at the highest levels of government and how often events threatened to spiral out of control. He details how the information age and "the economic facts of life" eventually doomed the Soviet Union, offers personal reflections on Ron and Nancy Reagan, tells how Dick Cheney and Colin Powell "coaxed the nuclear genie back into the bottle," and how the steadfast "closers," George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, calmly and carefully brought the Cold War to a close without bloodshed and chaos---a conclusion that would have seemed inconceivable just a decade before. Even readers well acquainted with Cold War history will find much to learn in these pages. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
This informative if sometimes partisan account of the author's career in public life focuses on the Cold War's nuclear confrontation. Reed worked as an air force officer with early computers, as a consultant to the Livermore Laboratory's production of thermonuclear weapons and eventually as Ronald Reagan's secretary of the air force. He hammers at the themes of the evils of communism, the stark horror of nuclear war and, surprisingly, the conscientious work of his Soviet counterparts whose nightmarish memories of WWII helped them to keep their weapons safe and their world intact. The author spent a good deal of time in Republican politics, but is not uncritical of the men (and women; see his sharp-eyed portrait of Nancy Reagan) with whom he was associated. He reserves his highest respect for the physicists (including Edward Teller) and the uniformed personnel on both sides who devoted and sometimes lost their lives to an effort to keep a fragile peace. The writing is sometimes discursive if seldom dull, and some areas have already been adequately covered by others. But the book deserves quite high marks for how much it pulls together, as well as offering a viewpoint on the Cold War not nearly sufficiently well-represented in the public literature: that neither the U.S. nor Soviet sciences were dominated by stereotypical, bomb-happy maniacs.
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