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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III [Hardcover]

Ron Rosenbaum

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Book Description

March 1 2011
The president loses control of fifty nukes for nearly an hour. Russian nuclear bombers almost bump wingtips with American fighter jets over the Pacific coast. North Korea detonates nuclear weapons underground. Iran’s nuclear shroud is penetrated by a computer worm. Al-Qaeda goes on the hunt for Pakistan’s bomb, and Israelis debate the merit of a preemptive nuclear strike. Treaties are signed, but thousands of nuclear weapons are still on hair-trigger alert.

This is how the end begins.

In this startling new book, bestselling author Ron Rosenbaum gives us a wake-up call about this new age of peril and delivers a provocative analysis of how close—and how often—the world has come to nuclear annihilation and why we are once again on the brink.

Rosenbaum tracks down key characters in our new nuclear drama and probes deeply into their war game strategies, fears, and moral agonies. He travels to Omaha’s underground nuclear command center, goes deep into the missile silo complexes beneath the Great Plains, and holds in his hands a set of nuclear launch keys.

Along the way, Rosenbaum confronts the missile men as well as the general at the very top of our nation’s nuclear command system with tough questions about the terrifying assumptions underlying it. He reveals disturbing flaws in our nuclear launch control system, suggests remedies for them, shows how the old Cold War system of bipolar deterrence has become dangerously unstable, and examines the new movement for nuclear abolition.

Having explored the depths of Hitler’s evil and the intense emotion of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Rosenbaum now has produced a powerful, urgently needed work that challenges us: Can we undream our nightmare?

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“The virtues of How the End Begins are numerous and impressive . . . this is a deep meditation on the role, meaning, and possible consequences of nuclear weapons in our time.”

—Michael Anton, The Weekly Standard

"Is there a scenario in which nuclear retaliation would be moral? Rosenbaum’s answer is a definitive no. Any reader of this upsetting book will be convinced that he’s right."

--Nathaniel Rich, The Daily Beast

About the Author

Ron Rosenbaum is the bestselling author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars and has written or edited six other books. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He writes a column for Slate and lives in New York City.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I expected March 9 2011
By Graham DeShazo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is long on supposition, conjecture, and theory (as well as a heavy-handed dose of personal morality), and short on facts and the type of stories and details I was looking for. To the extent that stories and examples were given, they were oversold.
I respect the author's opinion, but I think it is poorly defended and subject to considerable question.

In addition, the book digresses way too far into subjects of religion and philosophy.

Finally, and I hate to say this part the most, the book is kind of boring. The prose is (again) heavy-handed as well as long-winded. I found myself skipping ahead, which is something I never do.

I did manage to finish the book, but I was left with a sense of buyer's remorse.

If you describe yourself as a "zeroer", you will find much to your liking. Otherwise, you will probably find little to change your mind.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Basically an internal monologue May 23 2011
By J. E. BORNSTEIN - Published on Amazon.com
This book strikes me as a great New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly article that was streched into a book with less than optimal results. You get some really chilling information and assessments, which are unfortunately wrapped around Rosenbaum basically debating morality with himself. There's a great deal missing here - it's a shame, because it is such a compelling topic, but it isn't done justice here.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terminally scary March 3 2011
By Prof. Bunny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I hope Ron Rosenbaum donates his brain to science. I suspect it's an extra-large. But the difference between him and your garden-variety genius is that Rosenbaum's intellect is impassioned through and through. And he manages to pull those same emotions out of the reader as he parses the greatest question of our time: whether we are, by basic design, self-destructive. Taking on the big topics is Rosenbaum's beat: the existence of evil in his book "Explaining Hitler," and the miracle of genius in his book on Shakespeare. These are not dry exegeses; they are not merely researched but fully experienced by the author as he, for example, travels to a nuclear command center in Omaha or meets with key industry characters. He identifies the humans who hold the keys to our annihilation. And he scares us silly. This book is a warning, a Cassandra cry, and a must-read.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I think this book is dishonest April 7 2012
By BernardZ - Published on Amazon.com
The basic problem with nuclear weapons is that they exist. You can build them with 1940s technology, if you want an intercontinental ballistic missile, you can build that with 1950s technology. Over time as the world gets richer and technology improves it gets easier to make these. Right now, many countries if they wanted to, could develop nuclear weapons and a variety of WMD. Despite the best efforts of scientist and engineers, there is no credible defense against these weapons so the only policy that has worked up to now is assured retaliation (MAD). In this debate steps in the author of this book.

The major question that seems to concern the author is once someone launches nuclear weapons. What is the morality of nuclear retaliation? Say side A does an atomic strike on side B, is it moral for side B to retaliate? Of course, the real problem here is if side A thinks that side B will not retaliate; they may be very tempted to strike.

I think the writer, is dishonest with his facts. For example, he must know that it is questionable whether Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov's decision had much to do with preventing nuclear war as plenty is available on the net about it.
I am sure he is misrepresenting the facts on purpose about the US nuclear triad policy. It is expensive, but the point of it is not for first strike. The idea is by having a variety of methods of retaliations it makes it harder for the other side to make a successful first-strike on the US so giving the US a more credible threat of a second strike. If, for example, say the USSR did develop the blue-green laser that could detect submarines, which people had been working on? This could make the US nuclear submarines useless as a second strike, if so, the US would still have planes and land-based missiles as a second strike. I am sure the author knows of this project too. It might work and if so it would make his submarine solution useless.

Then when talking about such people like Herman Kahn, he just seems to brush aside their arguments like they do not matter. If he does not like someone's arguments, he makes them out to be stupid.

At the end, the writer of this book has not presented a credible alternative to MAD.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Sobering March 11 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rosenbaum sheds light on a subject that gets surprisingly little press coverage these days, painting a sobering picture of the very real threat that nuclear weapons pose. Interestingly, he makes a case for abolition/reduction of nuclear weapons but also preemption of would-be nuclear powers. Before reading this book, I never appreciated how compatible those two positions could be.

On more than one occasion I wanted to forget what I've learned from this book, but that wouldn't make any of it less true. The subject matter is pretty heavy, and I came away with the same feeling of unease I felt after the laughs wore off in Dr. Strangelove. Nonetheless, I would recommend this to a friend.

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