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Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – April 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0199229543 ISBN-10: 0199229546

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199229546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199229543
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nuclear Weapons: Questions for Consideration and Discussion

  • Was President Truman justified in his decision to order the bombing of Hiroshima? Was it necessary or unnecessary?
  • Why would North Korea want nuclear weapons? And what would it take for them to forgo their development?
  • Who was J. Robert Oppenheimer? And what does his career have to say about the role of science and scientists in the ongoing nuclear debate?
  • What was the significance of the Cold War in the evolution of nuclear weaponry?
  • Do you agree with the notion that the acquisition of nuclear weapons has become the Holy Grail of terrorists?
  • About the Author


    Joseph M. Siracusa is Professor in International Studies and Director of Global Studies, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He is internationally known for his writings on nuclear history, diplomacy, and presidential politics, and is also a frequent political affairs commentator in the media.

    Customer Reviews

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    8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Dynan on June 13, 2009
    Format: Paperback
    Joseph M. Siracusa appears to be of American extraction but lives and works in Australia as a Professor of International Studies at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The evidence of his origins can be found in the opening passage of his book when he describes his own recollection of the feeble practices instituted by the US Government in the 1950s to counter the threat of nuclear blasts against schoolchildren. The truth is, as he says, "America's schoolchildren would never have known what hit them".

    The book is part of Oxford University Press's marvellous series of Very Short Introductions and while I had initial reservations about the historical elements of the book, Siracusa eventually won me over. The science of nuclear weapons is not well understood by the vast majority of people and Siracusa does attempt to explain it in layperson's terms. Having read Richard Rhodes' seminal work, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I was reasonably well aware of the mechanics of the system but also very cognizant of the historical aspects, which are glossed over a bit too carelessly in this one, even for such a short book.

    Once the basics are out of the way, the post WWII global scene is dealt with and Siracusa moves quite well between the various policies adopted by countries in a changing world where the balance of power shifted quite rapidly from US monopoly to a policy of containment as the Soviet Union developed their own weapons. Various developments are well discussed, as the development of the hydrogen bomb and missile technology evolved into Mutual Assured Destruction: MAD.
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    8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Flanagan on May 4, 2008
    Format: Paperback
    Joseph M. Siracusa's Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction is an invaluable addition to Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. Whatever one's background, this volume provides a concise and highly readable introduction to nuclear weapons. It examines all aspects of these terrible weapons, from the science behind their construction, to the politics they provoke, to the fears surrounding their proliferation.

    In the minds of many climate change has eclipsed nuclear weapons as the paramount threat to the planet. Siracusa convincingly argues, however, that in this age of global terrorism we cannot afford to ignore the threat posed by nuclear weapons, which remain the gravest threat to humanity in the 21st century.

    For those of us who have no background in nuclear physics, nor time to master the enormous body of literature on issues such as nuclear deterrence and proliferation, this comprehensive and accessible introduction will prove absolutely invaluable to understanding the nature, history and terrible significance of nuclear weapons.
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    5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By kclam on June 28, 2009
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    This book offers a lively introduction to the history and politics of nuclear weapons. I find the review of effectiveness of non-proliferation efforts in recent years stimulating. For example, efforts to roll back the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race have been unsuccessful. However, within months of shutting down the international trafficking network of atomic technology and materials setup by Pakistani atomic scientist Dr. A. Q Khan in year 2004, Libya renounced its nuclear programme. By the way, brief account of the science of nuclear weapons and technology of "Star War" defense system are particularly interesting.
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    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on September 28, 2009
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    Nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive weapons ever created. The combined power of all nuclear weapons currently in existence has the potential to destroy the World many times over. That fact has permanently changed the perception of warfare and created a whole new set of military and diplomatic concerns. This very short introduction explores these issues in detail, or at least with as much of a detail as the format allows. The book starts with a very brief explanation of how the nuclear energy works, and the realization in the late 1930s that it could be used for weapons. It follows with a condensed story of the Manhattan Project and the first nuclear explosions. The end of World War II, as the book argues, has only been a beginning of the new power relations based on the new reality that came with the gradual proliferation of the nuclear weapons around the world. The bulk of the book deals with the diplomatic and strategic policies that have marked the balance of powers during the Cold War. Even though the number of countries that acquired nuclear weapons never went beyond a single digit, there is a constant threat that many more regimes around the world would be all too willing to join the nuclear club. This had become an especially intractable problem upon the end of the Cold War. Instead of gradual disarmament, all of the nuclear powers have decided to cling to their arsenals. Even though deterrence might have been a major factor in the establishment and maintenance of peace throughout the twentieth century, the raise of non-state actors and their increasing predilection for the use of all sorts of weapons of mass destruction poses new and much more challenging threats for the world peace. All of these considerations are explored in this book, presented at a very accessible and relevant level.
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