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The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics Hardcover – November 13, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0805094305 ISBN-10: 080509430X Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080509430X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094305
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Mr. Bracken’s view is a powerful one. . . . The questions [he] raises about the sustainability of current American foreign policy thinking are particularly timely. Nuclear strategy must come out of its post-Cold War retirement. We are once again in a world where nuclear weapons count."--Walter Russell Mead, The Wall Street Journal

"Penetrating. . . . Bracken is an example of why fresh and fearless thinking is required when considering the near-term future of geopolitics. . . . Everyone interested in nuclear proliferation in the Middle East should read [this book]."—Robert D. Kaplan, Stratfor, author of The Revenge of Geography

"This is an important book, necessary reading for anyone looking to understand nuclear weapons and how they might be used, directly or indirectly, in future conflicts around the world. Paul Bracken is a rigorous critic, convincing and unsentimental in his discussion of the strategic and political context of the subject. This is no simplistic vision of Armageddon."—George Friedman, author of The Next 100 Years, CEO of Stratfor

"Paul Bracken has written an alarming and compelling wake-up call. He argues that as new countries acquire nuclear capabilities, the cold war rules of the road no longer apply and we ignore the complexities of today’s environment at our peril. He provides an instructive history of how we got here and is practical and provocative in recommending possible solutions.

"Read this book. We should not wait for the first nuclear crisis of this century to start thinking about what to do differently."--Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"Challenging the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, Paul Bracken argues that we have already entered a second nuclear weapons age -- and that the United States needs to face that reality. His book is well worth reading."--Graham Allison, director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, and author of Essence of Decision and Nuclear Terrorism

"Put Paul Bracken in charge of our nuclear policy for the twenty-first century. The Second Nuclear Age is a superb analysis of why and how a continuation of our Cold War nuclear forces and doctrines will fail, and how we can make them safer and far more strategically useful."--R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence

"In this book—which could hardly be more timely—Paul Bracken dissects the dangerous and often neglected realities of ‘the second nuclear age’ and argues for bold, innovative, and often provocative ways to think about how to avert those dangers. Precisely because he challenges orthodox doctrines and practices and argues forcefully for his own strong views, he helps ensure that one of the most important, complex, and controversial issues of our time will get the hard-headed attention it deserves."--Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former U.S. deputy secretary of state

About the Author

Paul Bracken is the author of Fire in the East and The Command and Control of Nuclear Forces. He is a professor of management and political science at Yale University, and was previously a member of the senior staff of the Hudson Institute under Herman Kahn and a consultant to the Rand Corporation. He serves on several Department of Defense advisory boards and works with global multinational corporations on strategy and technology issues. He lives in Connecticut.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is very crisp, hard-hitting, and fast-paced.
Joshua Philip Manchester
At 306 pages long, the book is somewhat unbalanced, takes several pages to get on track and strains the reader in some parts, but its content is sobering.
One important point Bracken makes is that the possession of nuclear weapons has tremendous ramifications.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s remembers the school drill of "duck and cover", when students were expected to crouch underneath their desks as shelter from a nuclear explosion. It was, of course, a totally ineffectual maneuver intended to give the people a (false) sense of security from the impending sneak attack by that archenemy of the West, the communist menace, the USSR. These simple bygone days, when the only two nuclear super powers were locked in a global game of brinksmanship, have now been replaced by a more complex and much more dangerous world. Assured mutual destruction and the fear of a devastating retaliation were last tested almost 50 years ago during the Cuban missile crisis. During the Cold War nuclear arsenals were built up by the USA and the USSR more for mutual deterrence than for actual use. The exclusive nuclear club has now added seven more members, some of whom are presently engaged in regional conflicts and others overtly or covertly support terrorist factions.
Since the end of the Cold War, the nuclear threat no longer looms large in the collective psyche of the West. The threat of mutual destruction has made a nuclear arsenal less effective as a deterrent in the minds of military strategists.

In his book " The Second Nuclear Age", Paul Bracken writes, "An older generation wants to make the nuclear nightmare go away by inoculating the young with protective ideas. Nuclear weapons are useless and we should get rid of them." The new strategy is to "Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Get rid of ballistic missiles" and I suppose that we should all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya".
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gary on December 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Bracken brings his extensive experience and research on nuclear weapons issues to a somber preview of the "Second Nuclear Age". American focus on non-proliferation and arms control are worthy efforts, but we need to think and plan more for the inevitable proliferation of nuclear weapons and the challenges of recent nuclear states. Bracken draws upon war games and regional rivalries to show the risks of nuclear crises that no state really desires. Opaque command and control systems, poor crisis management, and the political utility of nuclear weapons are all described in disturbing detail. Bracken cogently describes the need for a new era of U.S. strategic innovation to deal with emerging global threats.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Philip Manchester on April 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Little has changed in the literature on nuclear strategy and nuclear warfare in the past 20 years. Philip Bobbitt's work "The Shield of Achilles" is one notable exception. But Bracken does an amazing job here describing the multiple reasons why we had all better begin thinking about the unthinkable once again.

More than that though, it occurred to me that the most insightful, creative thinkers about the future may well be nuclear strategists. In other fields, experts can make wild prognostications just to make headlines or a name for themselves. But in nuclear strategy, you had better be damned well sure you understand how the world might evolve because if you get it wrong, billions of people will die and civilization may come to an end.

This book is very crisp, hard-hitting, and fast-paced. Entire academic departments are sometimes eviscerated in three sentences. And the author knows what he is talking about. He's sat through the war games, lived in think tanks, seen the whole Cold War through to its end. We should all take pause that someone with this biography is now sounding the klaxon and asking everyone to wake up and pay attention.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By William C. Hagen on November 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Paul Bracken presents a clear strategic roadmap leading from the 1940s into today and on to tomorrow. Part One summarizes the Cold War, present day crises scenarios are presented in Part Two, and strategy proposals for the future are discussed in the last part. The transition is from a time when nuclear weapons were at the core of strategic planning to a time when strategic planning must be conducted in a nuclear environment. His ideas provoke thinking and provide a structure by which to better understand current events. The provocation of thinking leads to criticism but that can be a beneficial outcome itself.
As a reader unaccustomed to academic works of this nature, I stumbled over some vocabulary. For example, there is a distinct difference between `strategy' and `grand strategy' and that distinction is more important when the discussion goes from business planning to geo-political planning. I came to that realization when it struck me that goals and objectives were never included in the author's discussions. The singular goal of strategy is the implementation of grand strategy (or the thwarting of your adversary's grand strategy). In business, the goal is the improvement of the bottom line but in geo-politics it is not as self-evident. Only once, during the discussion of China's foreign policy, does Bracken use the term `grand strategy' and never once does he explicitly discuss goals or objectives. It is my understanding, dating back to the 1950s, that Soviet planners used the term `strategy' where we use `grand strategy' and `operations planning' where we use `strategy'. The ship has sailed to adopt that convention but it would have helped.
The implicit goal imbedded in Bracken's thesis is the maintenance of a status quo or a return to a stable state of affairs.
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