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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, Readable and Personal, July 27, 2010
This review is from: Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World (Hardcover)
In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that the author of Apocalypse Never is a long-time friend of mine and I read and commented on several chapters in manuscript. That said, I simply wouldn't have reviewed this book if I did not honestly consider it excellent.

There is no shortage of talk on the news about nuclear terrorism, but the threat of nuclear war is commonly assumed to have gone away with the Cold War. One of the key points of Apocalypse Never is that neglecting this threat is a mistake -- one that puts our civilization, our species, and much of life on Earth at risk. While nuclear war or accidental detonation is currently less likely than nuclear terror, with enough time, the nearly impossible becomes nearly inevitable. The math is simple: the more states have nukes and the more time they have them, the greater the chances of catastrophe.

A central part of this book is its analysis of why countries like Iran and North Korea want nuclear weapons to begin with. To actually use them in an attack would be suicide, but even a handful of nukes provides a highly effective deterrent against aggression, especially US aggression. The US has the strongest military in the world, but it can be held off by the threat of a nuclear attack on American troops or territory. While I think the book's analysis is a bit too US-centric here -- I doubt India's bomb has much to do with defense against a potential American attack -- it is fundamentally sound. (Incidentally, the power and precision of American conventional weapons has much to do with why nuclear weapons are militarily useless for us, a point to which the book devotes half a chapter.)

Nuclear abolition is both a condition of our survival and a legal duty under the unfortunately-named Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and several chapters of Apocalypse Never are devoted to exploring how it might be brought about. The crucial one, which I think is easily worth the price of the whole book, is an incisive analysis of the breakout scenario, in which some country reveals a small nuclear arsenal to a de-nuclearized world. Would such a country then proceed to rule the world or even just coerce its neighbors? No, it wouldn't, and the lucid logic and historical analysis of this book show why. Just to whet your appetite: the breakout scenario has already occurred -- in 1945.

While the logic of this book is powerful, it is also a deeply personal work, even telling the story of the author's father's participation in the last bombing raid on Japan. It never loses sight of the bigger picture and the last chapter is devoted to ideas even bigger than nuclear abolition. It talks about the emerging ethic of human unity, about the historical and cosmological stakes of the struggle for nuclear abolition. (There is probably intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy -- but what if we're alone?) The effect is, by turns, sobering and inspiring, and of all the book, it is the last chapter that I will be turning to over and over.

Please buy this book, read it, loan it to your friends and recommend it to your local library. Then, take action. Our future deserves no less.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 8, 2011, 1:01:21 PM PDT
Thank you Ms. Jane Shetsov for an outstanding review of a very important book. Felix Rosenthal.

Posted on May 8, 2011, 1:01:55 PM PDT
Thank you Ms. Jane Shevtsov for an outstanding review of a very important book. Felix Rosenthal.
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