An informed and informative appreciation of nuclear weapons as instruments of diplomatic policy. A special assistant for...


DANGER AND SURVIVAL: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years

An informed and informative appreciation of nuclear weapons as instruments of diplomatic policy. A special assistant for national security affairs in both the JFK and LBJ administrations who now teaches at NYU, Bundy provides a detailed history of the vital role played by atomic arms in geopolitics since the 1938 discovery of fission. At the outset, he reviews the factors that allowed the US--but not allies or enemies--to develop A-bombs for use in WW II and the causes of its subsequent commitment to thermonuclear weapons during the early stages of the Cold War. Leaving little doubt that the bomb was an important bargaining chip in the negotiations that ended hostilities in Korea and removed Soviet missiles from Cuba, the author examines other instances in which the implicit threat of nuclear action has helped resolve or defuse potentially dangerous crises. Cases in point include 1969 clashes along the Sino-Soviet frontier, the Yom Kippur War, and America's protracted involvement in Vietnam. In addition to a chronological narrative that brings the fearful story of atomic arms and statecraft into the current era's demanding stalemate, Bundy offers thoughtful appraisals of what it means to the British, Chinese, French, Israelis, and USSR as well as the US to be nuclear powers in an aerospace age. He also sets the record straight on massive-retaliation doctrine and speculates on roads not taken. His what-if scenarios address issues ranging from opportunities lost in order to secure civilian or international control of atomic technology and aborted test-ban treaties through the susceptibility of have-not nations like West Germany to nuclear blackmail. A realist and, perhaps, cold warrior at heart, the author seems not to doubt an ongoing need for deterrents, or at least ""strategic parity that makes nuclear war something for both sides to avoid."" As the tradition of non-use persists, however, Bundy is not without hope that US and USSR leaders will continue to understand their overwhelming common interest in averting what one observer has called ""interdestruction."" An insider's impressive and sobering overview.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988