A compelling, plainspoken piece of advocacy in which the author maintains that everything we think we know about nuclear weapons is wrong.
Though Wilson stops just short of making the case for immediate and unilateral nuclear disarmament, he builds a methodical, step-by-step argument that the very notion of such weapons as a deterrent is fallacious, based on a misunderstanding of when and why Japan decided to surrender in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima. What makes his case so convincing (though not all will be convinced) is that he makes it not in the spirit of Utopian idealism, but fact-facing pragmatism. He argues that most of the support for nuclear weaponry is in fact irrational, based on the misconception that mankind has no control over the future—that, having opened the Pandora’s box of nuclear technology, we live in fear of apocalypse. The fallacy begins with the bombing of Japan, where “the danger is that we have overinflated their value [of nuclear weapons] by misinterpreting that one event.” The threat of Russian invasion, not the nuclear bombing, forced Japan’s hand—“the atomic bomb swept all mistakes and misjudgments under the rug.” If it didn’t end a war, as generally perceived, neither has it stood as a deterrent, with Wilson citing the Cuban missile crisis as a sign of recklessness that actually pushed us closer to war. Yet even if one agrees with every one of his points, the author admits that “I am not sure what can and should be done with nuclear weapons.” He offers the plea that “the wisest scholars need to be enlisted to go back over the problem.”
A provocative reframing of a problem that still awaits a solution.