THE MEANING OF THE NUCLEAR REVOLUTION: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon by Robert Jervis

THE MEANING OF THE NUCLEAR REVOLUTION: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon

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Here, Jervis (Poli. Sci./Columbia) charts a heavily studied area--nuclear politics--from an unusual perspective. Eschewing the straight historical approach of John Newhouse's War and Peace in the Nuclear Age (1988) or the philosophic approach of Joseph Nye's Nuclear Ethics (1986), Jervis goes to the heart of the matter--demonstrating how nuclear weapons have created a revolution in military strategy and international relations. Jervis' analysis is flawed only by his cloying insistence that American leaders are somehow the international villains of nuclear policy as a result of their inability to recognize that nuclear weaponry is different from conventional. The author implies that the US is at fault for continuing to see such weapons as a tool requiring persistent quests for superiority. Such judgments may be disputed, but when Jervis sticks to in-depth analysis of fundamental concepts of military policy, he is superb. He shows how nuclear weapons have altered conventional deterrence from a ""deterrency by denial""--i.e., the ability to repel attacks--to a ""deterrence by punishment'--or deterring adversaries by raising the costs of the conflict to unacceptably high levels: ""It is the prospect of fighting the war rather than the possibility of losing it that induces restraint."" Jervis takes issue with such analysts as Severo and Milford (The Wages of War, p. 281), who argue that it's the modernization of political theory and economics--rather than the fear of nuclear weaponry per se--that has rendered most wars obsolete. He also cites the smugness of the American and Soviet systems as motivators for peace: ""While both would prefer a somewhat different world, they already have what is most important for them."" A comprehensive analysis that thrusts Jervis into the front ranks of nuclear essayists.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press