DANGEROUS CAPABILITIES: Paul Nitze and the Cold War by David Callahan

DANGEROUS CAPABILITIES: Paul Nitze and the Cold War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

At 25 years of age, Callahan makes a memorable scholarly debut with this fine biography of Paul Nitze, the consummate Washington insider who for the past 40 years has helped shape American Cold War policies. From 1945 to 1990, Callahan states, ""Paul Nitze would crusade to ensure that the United States and the West would never again be caught unprepared and vulnerable to the military designs of a totalitarian power."" In order for the US to meet this challenge, Callahan explains, Nitze consistently called for high expenditures for greater defense and the maintainance of technological superiority. This, Nitze claimed, also spurred national prosperity. Whenever defense expenditures lagged, Nitze issued warnings that the US would become an open target for a surprise attack by the Soviets, whose intentions, he believed, could never be trusted. He advised a succession of Presidents from Truman to Bush that ""limited"" nuclear war must always be an option. However, by the late 1960's, Nitze himself came to believe that negotiations from a position of strength would bring beneficial arms reductions with the Soviets, thus guaranteeing western security and more stability. It is this change in his thinking, Callahan points out, that for the past 20 years made Nitze one of America's foremost arms negotiators as well as one of its biggest defense advocates, with his greatest influence wielded during the Reagan years. Penetrating and, while respectful, in no way hagiographic as Callahan seriously questions whether ""winning the Cold War"" was worth the economic price paid, which he believes bas drained the nation of resources and, in effect, may have sold the birthright of future generations.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins