A splendidly sardonic appreciation of the sociopolitical and technological realities of providing for national defense in an age haunted by the threat of nuclear warfare. A sometime analyst at Herman Kahn's Hudson Institute, Bruce-Briggs provides brisk briefings on combatant countries' early efforts to protect themselves against ongoing advances in offensive weaponry like WW II's long-range bombers. He hits his stride, however, in assessing the impact of intercontinental-missile development on the elusive goal of security during the early stages of the Cold War. An insider who has worked closely with military/industrial celebrities, the author takes a wry view of aerospace events during the past 40 years. The unifying thread in his episodic chronicle (which he refuses to characterize as history because so much data is either classified or ambiguous) is a running account of the fluctuating fortunes of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. Noting more in sorrow than in anger that those espousing offensive arms have generally had the best of any public debates on military policy, Bruce-Briggs tracks the ABM back to a 1950's prototype called Nike-Zeus through its most recent reincarnation as an integral element of President Reagan's SDI. Along his leisurely way, he comments knowledgeably on deterrence doctrine, disarmament negotiations, and longtime articles of faith like MAD (mutual assured destruction). He also passes frequently harsh judgment on a host of colleagues and contemporaries Hans Bethe, Donald Brennan, Richard Garwin, Paul Nitze, Edward Teller, Jerome Wiesner, et al. While Bruce-Briggs never treats the US/USSR confrontation as less than a serious business, he remains bemused by the turf battles, personal rivalries, ideological crusades, and triumphs of hope over experience that mark Washington's best efforts to remain abreast if not ahead of Moscow. Though by no means a saberrattling chauvinist, the author repeatedly rebukes the ""infantile left"" and its vocal, uninformed supporters. Among the targets of his caustic thrusts are the Union of Concerned Scientists, Robert McNamara, and civil-defense charlatans who ""swaggered about the country boasting of how they would take over and run things when The Day came."" An elegantly acerbic rundown that's as sobering as it is accessible, entertaining, and instructive.