THE BALANCE OF TERROR: A Guide to the Arms Race by Edgar M. Bottome

THE BALANCE OF TERROR: A Guide to the Arms Race

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A somber albeit accessible recap of the arms race from 1945 to the present. Bottome uses Pentagon statistics to corroborate I. F. Stone-ish conclusions -- e.g. that the nuclear build-up from Truman to Nixon has been incremental but consistent ""without regard to political party, personal philosophy or White House occupant,"" major escalations being prompted by mythical ""bomber,"" ""missile,"" and ""security"" gaps usually discovered around election time. He claims that both faulty intelligence and willful duplicity figured in the creation of the ""missile gap"" which helped JFK's election and summarily evaporated. He sees the Cuban missile crisis not as Russian nuclear saber-rattling but as an ill-advised Soviet attempt to redress an increasingly lopsided nuclear balance. (America had just installed Jupiters in Turkey and the Thor in Britain.) U.S. overall superiority in nuclear delivery systems is placed at 4 to 1 before ABM, MIRV and the latest red herring, the ""discovery"" of the Soviet SS-9 missile. Bottome warns that under Nixon-Laird management the ""logic"" of nuclear terror is being fulfilled: MIRV ""raises the spectre of America preparing for the first strike against the Soviet Union"" and ABM bespeaks U.S. intent to pursue a policy of ""nuclear blackmail"" vis-a-vis China for as long as possible. Hammering away on the charge that American military strategists from Dulles to Laird have disingenuously equated Soviet capacity for weapons proliferation with intent and actual practice, Bottome proceeds by quoting McNamara against McNamara, Air Force against Army, and presidential press conferences against statistics of missile production. There is nothing startlingly original about the author's interpretation of the dynamics of escalation (inter-service rivalry, confused intelligence channels, corporate lust for fat defense contracts, and the inability of the public to penetrate the technical jargon of the military). As an indictment and an overview of the solidification of the terror balance, it has the virtue of restraint and clarity. There is a useful Glossary and an Appendix of Comparative Weapons Systems covering the period.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1971
Publisher: Beacon