THE DAY BEFORE DOOMSDAY: An Anatomy of the Nuclear Arms Race by Sidney Lens

THE DAY BEFORE DOOMSDAY: An Anatomy of the Nuclear Arms Race

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The continuing buildup of nuclear weapons by the two superpowers and the danger of worldwide nuclear arms proliferation as a result of the expanding international nuclear power industry form the dismal backdrop for this timely book. Lens (author of Radicalism in America, The Military Industrial Complex, and thirteen other books) succinctly surveys the history of the nuclear arms race, focusing on the US--the true instigator and motor of the race in his view--and analyzes the various arguments generated to support and further it, from the optimistic delusions of American preponderance in atomic weapons following WW II to James Schlesinger's fantasy of a ""controlled"" nuclear war. He exposes--not for the first time--the twisted logic of nuclear weapons policy, with its Strangelovian objective of ""winning"" a war in which there can be no winners, and locates the origins of the National Security State in the enormous social investment consequent on this nuclear strategy. Lens interprets this entire process as an ""impersonal lunacy"" which has brought the world to the brink of disaster, and argues that the concepts of militarism, war, and national sovereignty are no longer meaningful in the nuclear age. His rather meager suggestions for action follow from this interpretation: international control of nuclear energy, revival of the Ban the Bomb movement, public discourse, etc. Lens describes, but fails to see, the two processes at work: the ""lunacy"" associated with nuclear weapons strategy, and the economic and political rationality, of increased government defense spending as institutionalized in the National Security State. His single interpretive stance cannot account for all the phenomena which he has pulled together. Nevertheless, Lens' synthesis of hitherto unrelated material--such as civilian defense policy, nuclear energy proliferation, nuclear strategy--is an achievement in itself, even if he has provided the evidence with which to challenge his own interpretation.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday