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Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs) Paperback – March 30, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0801472893 ISBN-10: 080147289X Edition: 1st

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Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs) + Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Inside Technology) + Phantom Menace or Looming Danger?: A New Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats
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Product Details

  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080147289X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801472893
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Whole World on Fire is a whole book about how the U.S. government uses flawed methodology and inaccurate data to plan for nuclear war. . . . The analysis of the nuclear war planning sector in Whole World on Fire is interesting, controversial, and likely to provoke debate, but the book is about much more than the minutiae of nuclear targeting. Eden, a research scholar at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, transforms the arcane world of planning for nuclear war into a nuanced case study for understanding organizational behavior. . . . Whole World on Fire is a significant contribution and should be read by anyone who is concerned about the accountability and effectiveness of powerful American organizations."—Science, March 19, 2004

"This investigation leads Eden into the more arcane and unsettling aspects of nuclear planning, and students of this area will find in her book much fascinating detail. More broadly, however, she seeks to demonstrate how institutional knowledge often leaves out critical facts—leading to disaster when incomplete information becomes the basis for action."—Foreign Affairs 83:1, January/February 2004

"Whole World on Fire is thoroughly researched and well documented. . . . Eden . . . reminds us of the importance of applying critical thinking to solving problems."—Lt. Col. Charles E. Costanzo, Ph.D., USAF, Ret., Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Air and Space Power Journal,Summer 2004

"This book has been deeply researched and is written exceptionally well. Whole World on Fire will stand . . . among the best in-depth studies of how organizations interact with the physical world."—Spencer D. Bakich, Virginia Quarterly Review 80:3

"Scientists who study the physics of mass fire, popularly known as firestorms, predict that the fire generated by a nuclear explosion would be more devastating than the nuclear blast effect. . . . Over the past six decades, US warplanners have failed to incorporate these grim realities into their scenarios, focusing instead on the blast effects. They have underestimated the damage nuclear weapons would cause and build far more warheads than needed for national security. Eden. . .reviews historical episodes, science and technology studies, and organizational theory to explain these war-planning decisions."—Choice, September 2004

"A differential, path-dependent understanding of blast and fire is at the center of Lynn Eden's masterful analysis. . . . This book is remarkably helpful to organizational theorists. Eden manages to keep multiple levels of analysis in play. . . . and suggests a cognitive mechanism for inertia. . . . as an active accomplishment, not a passive default."—Karl E. Weick, Administrative Science Quarterly, March 2005

"Whole World on Fire is a thoughtful examination of the effect of organizations on the science and technology of determining nuclear devastation. Lynn Eden's book is thoroughly researched and well written."—Dr. William J. Perry, Nineteenth U.S. Secretary of Defense

"Canny, bold, subtle, lucid, surprising, and distressing, Whole World on Fire demonstrates brilliantly that complex organizational processes having disastrous consequences need not remain mysterious if an investigator who combines perceptiveness, determination, and finesse comes along to unravel them."—Charles Tilly, Columbia University

"Lynn Eden's book is terrific. It is well written, well argued, theoretically innovative, empirically rich, methodologically sound, politically important, and controversial. She argues that the nuclear weapons community has misinformed policy-makers and the public by neglecting to calculate the ferocious effects of mass fires on nuclear targets. The puzzle of how so many people could be so wrong about something so important makes this an intrinsically interesting story. The political implications of Eden's argument are profound: not only are nuclear weapons even more destructive than we had thought, but there is a direct bearing on current issues in nuclear strategy."—Jonathan Mercer, University of Washington

About the Author

Lynn Eden is Associate Director for Research/Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. She is the author of Crisis in Watertown, coauthor of Witness in Philadelphia, coeditor of Nuclear Arguments, and an editor of The Oxford Companion to American Military History. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. Campbell on December 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you're a hard-core, die-hard aficionado of nuclear weapons issues (in other words you get high reading about obscure, esoteric minutiae), this is the book for you. The author has shown admirable resolve in tracking down the details about the whys and wherefores of the nuclear weapons community's disdain for the damage caused by nuclear-induced fires. However she does get redundant more than she needs to be, and she early on makes the salient points that the rest of the book ponderously reiterates. She touches on the nuclear winter controversy, but in an almost cursory fashion; odd, considering the central role fires played in that raging debate. (I am proud that I avoided saying "that firestorm of controversy.")

Still I recommend adding it to the nuke fan's library as she does add a needed dimension to the entire philosophy of nuclear war fighting, a concept too absurd to exist in any but our own techno-crazed society.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Mercer on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Lynn Eden's book is terrific. It is well written, well argued, theoretically innovative, empirically rich, methodologically sound, politically important, and controversial.

Eden argues that the nuclear weapons community has misinformed policy-makers and the public about the consequences of nuclear explosions by neglecting to calculate mass fires' ferocious effects on nuclear targets. The weapons community continues to neglect mass fire because they believe it is neither predictable nor as important as blast effects. Eden argues against this conventional view. Her argument is not technical - for that she relies on two well known and well respected nuclear physicists - but historical and sociological. After translating the technical reasons why mass fire should be incorporated into models of nuclear weapons effects - the explosion creates its own environment which overwhelms local environmental factors - she addresses the alternative explanations and advances her own explanation for the neglect of mass fire. The puzzle of how so many people could be so wrong about something so important makes this an intrinsically interesting story.

The political implications of Eden's argument are profound. Not only are nuclear weapons even more destructive than we had thought, but her argument has a direct bearing on current issues in nuclear strategy. Increasingly, some deterrence theorists imagine limited strikes with low-yield weapons in a variety of scenarios - such as to deter the use of chemical and biological weapons. We should know what these weapons do before we contemplate using them.
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