Return to Armageddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1981-1999

Oxford University Press
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When the Cold War ended, the world let out a collective sigh of relief as the fear of nuclear confrontation between superpowers appeared to vanish overnight. As we approach the new millennium, however, the proliferation of nuclear weapons to ever more belligerent countries and factions raises alarming new concerns about the threat of nuclear war. In Return to Armageddon, Ronald Powaski assesses the dangers that beset us as we enter an increasingly unstable political world. With the START I and II treaties, completed by George Bush in 1991 and 1993 respectively, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, it seemed as if the nuclear clock had been successfully turned back to a safer hour. But Powaski shows that there is much less reason for optimism than we may like to think. Continued U.S.-Russian cooperation can no longer be assured. To make matters worse, Russia has not ratified the START II Treaty and the U.S. Senate has failed to approve the CTBT. Perhaps even more ominously, the effort to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nonweapon states is threatened by nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan. The nuclear club is growing and its most recent members are increasingly hostile. Indeed, it is becoming ever more difficult to keep track of the expertise and material needed to build nuclear weapons, which almost certainly will find their way into terrorist hands. Accessible, authoritative, and provocative, Return to Armageddon provides both a comprehensive account of the arms control process and a startling reappraisal of the nuclear threat that refuses to go away.
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About the author

Ronald Powaski is the author of The Cold War: The U.S. and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 and March to Armageddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1939-1987, both by OUP. He is an adjunct professor of history at Cleveland State University. He lives in Euclid, Ohio.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Mar 9, 2000
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780195355963
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Military / Nuclear Warfare
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / International Relations / Arms Control
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Since the first atomic bomb was exploded in 1945, a close community of civilian experts, including scientists, academics, and think-tank intellectuals, has advised the American government on the prospects of nuclear war. Based on interviews with these experts, as well as hundreds of pages of recently declassified documents, Counsels of War is the first book to trace in detail the deliberations and shifting recommendations of the experts on the bomb from Hiroshima to "Star Wars."

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Herken shows that the lines in the current nuclear debate were actually drawn at the dawn of the atomic age, and that the experts' technically abstruse arguments have only served to hide from the public the fundamental, deeply held—and quite subjective—differences at the heart of the debate. Since Hiroshima, there has been a growing awareness of the peril created by nuclear weapons, yet the crucial questions that were never adequately addressed in 1945 unanswered today. Given the inability of the experts to confront the essential dilemma of the nuclear age, Counsels of War calls for a new nuclear debate, one focused on American rather than Soviet intentions and that seeks an answer to the fundamental, yet still unresolved question: What are these weapons for?
The national bestseller from Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen is a "compellingly hard-hitting" history of Area 51 (New York Times) based on unprecedented access and newly declassified material from the mysterious military base.

It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn't exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada's desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government-but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.

Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now.

Annie Jacobsen had exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base proudly and secretly for decades and are now aged 75-92, and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers linked to the secret base, thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods. In Area 51, Jacobsen shows us what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror.

This is the first book based on interviews with eye witnesses to Area 51 history, which makes it the seminal work on the subject. Filled with formerly classified information that has never been accurately decoded for the public, Area 51 weaves the mysterious activities of the top-secret base into a gripping narrative, showing that facts are often more fantastic than fiction, especially when the distinction is almost impossible to make.
"Read this book from page one. It will blow your mind." --Jon Stewart
"A tour de force."—Jeremy Scahill

"Tom Engelhardt is the I. F. Stone of the post-9/11 age."—Andrew J. Bacevich

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This is the startling tale of how fear was profitably shot into the national bloodstream, how the country—gripped by terror fantasies—was locked down, and how a brain-dead Washington elite fiddled (and profited) while America quietly burned.

Think of it as the story of how the Cold War really ended, with the triumphalist "sole superpower" of 1991 heading slowly for the same exit through which the Soviet Union left the stage twenty years earlier.

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the TomDispatch website, a project of The Nation Institute, where he is a fellow. He is the author of the critically acclaimed The American Way of War and The End of Victory Culture.


The Oscar-shortlisted documentary Command and Control, directed by Robert Kenner, finds its origins in Eric Schlosser's book and continues to explore the little-known history of the management and safety concerns of America's nuclear aresenal.

A myth-shattering exposé of America’s nuclear weapons

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved—and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind. While the harms of global warming increasingly dominate the news, the equally dangerous yet more immediate threat of nuclear weapons has been largely forgotten.

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Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with people who designed and routinely handled nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control. Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America’s nuclear age.
For half of the twentieth century, the Cold War gripped the world. International relations everywhere--and domestic policy in scores of nations--pivoted around this central point, the American-Soviet rivalry. Even today, much of the world's diplomacy grapples with chaos created by the Cold War's sudden disappearance. Here indeed is a subject that defies easy understanding. Now comes a definitive account, a startlingly fresh, clear eyed, comprehensive history of our century's longest struggle. In The Cold War, Ronald E. Powaski offers a new perspective on the great rivalry, even as he provides a coherent, concise narrative. He wastes no time in challenging the reader to think of the Cold War in new ways, arguing that the roots of the conflict are centuries old, going back to Czarist Russia and to the very infancy of the American nation. He shows that both Russia and America were expansionist nations with messianic complexes, and the people of both nations believed they possessed a unique mission in history. Except for a brief interval in 1917, Americans perceived the Russian government (whether Czarist or Bolshevik) as despotic; Russians saw the United States as conspiring to prevent it from reaching its place in the sun. U.S. military intervention in Russia's civil war, with the aim of overthrowing Lenin's upstart regime, entrenched Moscow's fears. Soviet American relations, difficult before World War II--when both nations were relatively weak militarily and isolated from world affairs--escalated dramatically after both nations emerged as the world's major military powers. Powaski paints a portrait of the spiraling tensions with stark clarity, as each new development added to the rivalry: the Marshall Plan, the communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade, the formation of NATO, the first Soviet nuclear test. In this atmosphere, Truman found it easy to believe that the Communist victory in China and the Korean War were products of Soviet expansionism. He and his successors extended their own web of mutual defense treaties, covert actions, and military interventions across the globe--from the Caribbean to the Middle East and, finally to Southeast Asia, where containment famously foundered in the bog of Vietnam. Powaski skillfully highlights the domestic politics, diplomatic maneuvers, and even psychological factors as he untangles the knot that bound the two superpowers together in conflict. From the nuclear arms race, to the impact of U.S. recognition of China on detente, to Brezhnev's inflexible persistence in competing with America everywhere, he casts new light on familiar topics. Always judicious in his assessments, Powaski gives due credit to Reagan and especially Bush in facilitating the Soviet collapse, but also notes that internal economic failure, not outside pressure, proved decisive in the Communist failure. Perhaps most important, he offers a clear eyed assessment of the lasting distortions the struggle wrought upon American institutions, raising questions about whether anyone really won the Cold War. With clarity, fairness, and insight, he offers the definitive account of our century's longest international rivalry.
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