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Book review: GAMBLING WITH ARMAGEDDON

Coming Close to Nuclear Holocaust, NYT,  By Talmage Boston, GAMBLING WITH ARMAGEDDON, Nuclear Roulette From Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945-1962, By Martin J. Sherwin   On Aug. 6, 1945, after Hiroshima was destroyed, President Truman declared the atomic bomb “the greatest thing in history.” On Oct. 21, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy confided to a friend, “The world really is impossible to manage so long as we have nuclear weapons.” The two statements sum up the changes in thinking between those two dates.

Benefiting from more than a half century of hindsight, the Pulitzer-winning historian Martin J. Sherwin delivers a well-researched and reasoned analysis of nuclear weapons’ impact from 1945 to 1962 in “Gambling With Armageddon.” The book should become the definitive account of its subject.

Sherwin has three themes. First, history proves that the disadvantages of nuclear weapons outweigh their advantages. Yes, the A-bomb brought a quick end to World War II, but Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Oppenheimer both believed Japan’s defeat was imminent without the bomb. And while it tipped the balance of power until the Soviets developed their own nuclear weapon in 1949, this brief American advantage produced no geopolitical gains…….

The book’s final lesson is the unsettling one that regardless of how many wise decisions get made by prudent leaders,

 good luck is crucial. Sherwin reveals that on Day 12 of the crisis, a Soviet captain overruled a flawed order to unleash
a nuclear missile on American ships blockading Cuba. Similarly, an American Air Force captain refused to fire a nuke
into China until he double-checked the accuracy of what proved to be a mistaken communication. The little-known
 captains Vasily Arkhipov and William Bassett thereby become elevated onto the pedestal with Kennedy and

October 15, 2020 - Posted by | resources - print, weapons and war

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