Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "From Nuclear Strategy to a World Without War"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "From Nuclear Strategy to a World Without War"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

Several years ago, there was a movie where our nuclear launch computers are programmed to play a "game" of nuclear warfare. While audiences sat nervously awaiting to see if nuclear weapons would be launched, I sat assured that, should the movie follow reality, the predictable end would be that the computer would determine there is no conceivable manner to win this "game" and the computer would decline to play.
Computers can be programmed to be logical and rational. Humans are not necessarily so. People such as Hitler can lead their nations into irrational behavior. Further, in the face of defeat, a logical response may be to turn to desperate actions which otherwise would have been unthinkable.

This sobering book, authored by the former head of the State Department Intelligence during the Kennedy Administration, warns against the delusion that "mutually assured destruction" continues preventing nuclear warfare. Indeed, at the rate the world is progressing, nuclear warfare is likely. Can we comfortably look at crises in India-Pakistan, the Middle East, Iran-Iraq, and the two Koreas and conclude that nuclear war is impossible? Further, should the current government in Russia fall, can we be certain its replacement will not be one that rekindles some Cold War aspects?

Roger Hilsman’s book is fascinating in two aspects. It first serves as a detailed yet readable history of nuclear weapons policies. It then presents a thoughtful yet controversial proposal on what the author argues will prevent nuclear warfare.

These pages contain many interesting points. During the debate to drop nuclear weapons on Japan, Gen. George Marshall estimated an invasion of Japan would cost 40,000 American casualties. Gen. Hap Arnold and Admiral William Leahy argued Japan could be defeated without an invasion. Allied submarines and battle casualties were devastating the Japanese military. Yet, the estimates from others that one million American lives would otherwise be lost in an invasion of Japan led President Truman to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

During the 1950s, Admiral Arthur Radford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined by Vice President Nixon and others, recommended dropping nuclear bombs in Viet Nam. (The only Eisenhower Administration official to actively oppose this proposal was Army Chief of Staff, and Pennsylvanian, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway. ) Ironically, it would be Senator Lyndon Johnson and other Congressional leaders who would convince Eisenhower not to become so involved in Viet Nam.

The Cuban Missile Crisis may have been caused by Soviet realization that the Americans had discovered they were ahead in nuclear arms production in spite of their prior belief they were behind. Placing nuclear weapons in Cuba was Khruschev’s attempt at regaining nuclear strength. President Kennedy wisely negotiated by considering consequences, recognizing divisions within the Soviet government, and using flexibility in accepting reasonable Soviet reactions and ignoring their inflammatory threats. Hilsman notes that a peaceful ending is not certain in all future similar crises.

In more recent times, there are people such as President Bush and Soviet Chief of General Staff Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov who have stated it is possible to win a nuclear war. Imbalances exist when opposing sides believe each can win a devastating war. (Footnote: Refer to World War I.) Chairman Mao even boasted China could sustain 300 million casualties in nuclear warfare and still have 300 million people remaining.

Nuclear war can be started by nations or by terrorists, Hilsman warns. Leaders can miscalculate, be insane, or lose control of situations. During war, all three such possibilities can easily occur.

Hilsman’s conclusion, that a world governance replacing nationalistic desires (which causes most wars) and which is capable of policing rogue nuclear threats is the only solution, is bound to provoke much dissension. Indeed, even Hilsman realizes such an eventuality will be impossible for some time. National pride is too strong for nations to give power to a higher governmental authority. Still, the thought that this is the only way to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, if Hilsman is correct, should create concern. If the world can recognize the dangers and begin moving in this direction (which is possible as evidenced by Europe’s acceptance of the European Community), there is hope.


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