ICBMs and MIRVs, duck-and-cover drills and fallout suits, the Warsaw Pact and the Berlin Garrison: it has been over for only a decade, but in many ways the material and symbolic culture of the cold-war era seems ancient. British military historian David Miller
documents the military aspects of the decades-long struggle between East and West as if it indeed happened long ago, patiently and thoroughly explaining the complex disagreements among the Allied powers over how the post-World War II world was to be ruled, and how those disagreements led in time to the Iron Curtain, the arms race, and the specter of nuclear holocaust.
Miller takes great interest in the ordnance of destruction, cataloging the orders of battle and assets of the contending powers and their satellites. At times this thoroughness overcomes clarity with a surfeit of acronym-laden detail ("the SS-16 carried a single 1 MT warhead and was essentially an SS-20 with an additional third stage, giving it a range of 9,000 km. This range meant that the SS-16 was classified as an ICBM and was covered by the SALT treaty, whereas the SS-20 was an IRBM and thus was not covered by SALT"). The complex prose notwithstanding, Miller offers a highly useful synopsis of the struggle, closing with an understated observation: "Both sides in the Cold War seem to have realized that a conflict between them would almost certainly have escalated from conventional to nuclear.... In consequence, they kept their heads, and for forty years they kept the arms race within reason--just." --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
The British author of 24 books mostly on military history (The United States and Africa, etc.), Miller has produced a look at the Cold War that is astonishingly light on the broad diplomatic perspective and way too heavy on the technologyAin fact, to call this a military history is to misidentify the book in relation to others that explore the larger events shaping the conflict between East and West throughout the postwar period. This account is chock-full of the development of weapon systems, with little discussion of the strategic and political needs that shaped their evolution, and even less of a look at the theaters in which they were deployed. There is nothing in here of Vietnam, Korea, the Cuban missile crisis, Afghanistan or any of the spy incidents between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Instead, we get tallies of how many nuclear weapons tests were carried out by each side, how many battleships, submarines and planes they had and how they were equipped. Only in the first part of the book does the author show his range of knowledge with a thorough and engaging look at the political landscape of the post-WWII world. Given the subject matter, Miller's writing is necessarily dry, a dull enumeration of various types of weapons and war ships ("The first six SSNs all had the traditional long, thin hull and twin propellers of the German Type XXI"). This prodigious accounting of Cold War weaponry will be of interest only to the serious military scholar and technophile. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.
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