- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416594213
- ISBN-13: 978-1416594215
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,523,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III Hardcover – March 1, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Rosenbaum (The Shakespeare Wars), an investigative reporter and Slate columnist, examines the potential for and consequences of nuclear conflict in this sobering, well-argued study. Drawing on decades of study in the field, the author points to a new world that will feature multiple nuclear powers that pose a threat for "touching off a regional nuclear war that could escalate to global scale." Nuclear weapons in the hands of such unstable regimes as Pakistan, North Korea, or Iran is not Rosenbaum's only concern. He worries about Russia's "new bellicosity" and its shoring up and modernization of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, he argues that the Obama administration's new START treaty preserves a dangerous status quo that leaves in place a "rickety" nuclear command and control system with a "one percent per year" risk of failure. After examining and reluctantly dismissing the prospects for nuclear disarmament, the author concludes with a stark warning: "It's all about luck now. I'm a pessimist." In clear, crisp language, Rosenbaum not only vividly details his personal odyssey "to map out the terra incognita... of the new nuclear landscape," but also challenges the rest of us to confront the gathering storm. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
It�s time to rethink the unthinkable, says Rosenbaum. Impelled by his advocacy to abolish nuclear weapons, he interviewed former and current military officials, academic strategists, and philosophers, who ponder the reliability of nuclear command and control and contingencies that contemplate using nuclear weapons. Providing readers summaries of the cold war�s nuclear close calls, Rosenbaum quizzes defenders and critics of nuclear deterrence. He is naturally sympathetic to arguments that deterrence is an unstable mind game destined to fail. How it might takes Rosenbaum into scenarios involving a country regularly assailed by threats of annihilation, Israel. What if, despite Israel�s atomic arsenal, Iranian menaces eventuate in a nuclear attack (which Rosenbaum pessimistically predicts). Rosenbaum asks several interlocutors if Israeli retaliation that would kill millions of innocents could be ethically justified. Shifting the problem from seminar abstraction to air-raid reality, Rosenbaum discusses war risks run by Israel�s acts of preemption, as in its 2007 destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor. With the bomb proliferating, Rosenbaum is an alarming herald of current and possibly future events. --Gilbert Taylor
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Journalist Ron Rosenbaum has been writing about his obsessive fascination with nuclear war since the mid-Seventies. In 1978, his long investigative piece for Harper's, "The Subterranean World of the Bomb," for which he was allowed unprecedented access to highly restricted military facilities, including the SAC War Room Command Balcony and a Minuteman silo launch capsule, is widely considered to be a classic of its genre. That he should have to continue writing about this subject 33 years later, long after the fall of these weapons' intended target nation, is, to say the least, troubling. In fact, it's downright terrifying.
How the End Begins reprises one of the Harper's article's central themes: the question first posed by Air Force Major Harold Hering, a decorated Vietnam veteran in training for a job as a ICBM "missileer," namely, "What safeguards exist to prevent a launch officer from receiving an unlawful launch order, such as one given by an insane Commander-in-Chief or an enemy infiltrator into the command and control system?" For merely asking this question, Major Hering was forced into early retirement by a disciplinary panel. The question, posed in 1974, has never been adequately answered, or even addressed.
Rosenbaum goes on from there, explaining the logical paradox behind "Deterrence Theory"--Would you retaliate in response to a first-strike nuclear attack that has already destroyed your country and thus risk causing the total annihilation of humanity?--a question to which either answer gives your enemy a rationale to strike you first. He talks to military brass, think-tank analysts, ethicists about deterrence, the morality of civilian slaughter, fail-safe points, "dead-hand" mechanisms. He outlines several real historical situations in which nuclear war almost did happen, including a NATO war game in West Germany in 1983 that was misinterpreted by the Soviets, and the Israeli bombing of a Syrian breeder reactor that nearly spiraled into World War III, which occurred in September 2007--yes, 2007! He discusses the many ways in which human or electronic error or subterfuge could spark a launch, as well as a number of geopolitical "hot spots"--Israel/Syria/Iran, Pakistan/India, China/Taiwan, the Koreas--in which a small-scale regional nuclear exchange could easily escalate into full-blown global holocaust. And he outlines the beliefs and goals of groups representing a broad spectrum of thinking, from the abolitionist Global Zero Initiative to the nuke-happy deterrence theorists of STRATCOM (the United States Strategic Command, the successor to SAC), and some locales in between these extremes; most striking among these being the recently declassified position papers of JCS Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, who argued in vain--in 1959, before the prairies became dotted with missile silos--that the best deterrence model was for each side to deploy a small nuclear force based entirely on submarines, which were undetectable and mobile and effective only as a defensive retaliatory threat, rather than to build hidden launch stations on each country's own territory, which invited a deadly hail of retaliation upon a civilian population. The Air Force won with their silos and bomber bases, and the US and USSR were locked into a 30-year genocidal standoff.
This is a fascinating and important book, though I will warn you that it has the unwelcome side effect of Bomb-anxiety-induced insomnia, the kind I imagined we should no longer have any reason to suffer. But the threat is still there; the Doomsday Clock still reads one minute to midnight.
Without a doubt, "How the End Begins" is the most interesting book on nuclear weapons that I've read in a long time. In this book, Mr. Rosenbaum becomes a sort of Dante, descending into the depths of nuclear hell and returning to tell the tale. It is a true story that should alarm us all and catalyze global society into taking action to provide for better security against nuclear threats, not the least of which is the threat of our own politicians and strategists who still follow the outmoded doctrine of the Cold War.
At its best, this book offers some very useful suggestions for how the USA and Russia can move away from hair-trigger alerts with their nuclear arsenals. At its worst, Mr. Rosenbaum occasionally treats the scariest possible scenario as though it were reality. This is particularly so in the cases dealing with Syria and Israel, but Mr. Rosenbaum is nonetheless honest about his strong personal emotions toward Israel, and I certainly don't blame him for how he feels.
The negative review of this book that asserts that 'zeroers will find much to like' is incorrect, and I'd like to set the record straight. This book is very skeptical of the Global Zero movement's efficacy, though Mr. Rosenbaum clearly takes moral sides with those who equate nuclear war to genocide, and people like Bruce Blair, the movement's founder, who would like to see global arsenals de-alerted.
What makes this book shine is that it is written by a non-technical but extremely knowledgeable nuclear outsider who cares more about people than about mega-tonnage and throw-weight. After learning about these arcane things myself, I am convinced that Mr. Rosenbaum's approach is correct. No matter how the end begins, it is people who matter, and people who make the decisions about whether or not to kill each other.
Pick up a copy. Forgive the pun, but it'll blow your mind.
to really upset Humanity & Life. The USSR changed w/ Gorby.. but there
are still too many N.Koreans, Africans, & Yes even Syrians & Iraninans
who are not World Embracing.. Thus Our Key Nations do need to be
on Guard as this Tome Suggests!