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The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger Paperback – Sep 2 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (Sept. 2 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805088663
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #621,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Jonathan Schell has been warning us about the dangers of nuclear weapons since his seminal book, The Fate of the Earth. The Seventh Decade shows how pressing this issue still is. Schell offers a provocative analysis of the current dangers and puts them in the context of history. It's a fascinating and important book.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe


“In yet another tour de force, Jonathan Schell, our chronicler as conscience, addresses the salient fact of the era—that amid the ultimate terror of nuclear weapons, Americans live under one of the most heedless and dangerous governments in history. Once again, Schell honors us with a profound warning. Our consummate shame is that we do nothing about it.”—Roger Morris, author of Taking Comfort


"Jonathan Schell has written a courageous book, a clarion call for the world to stop its drift toward 'nuclear anarchy'—which cannot occur absent a radical change in U. S. nuclear policy.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War

"No voice is as clear, no mind is as sharp, and no writings about nuclear weapons have been as perceptive as Jonathan Schell's books and articles since 1982. Now, in The Seventh Decade, Schell once again reveals in lucid prose the most inconvenient truth: the nuclear weapons policies of our government endanger our security, our planet and the very existence of our specie. This is a book that every responsible voter should read before November 2008.”—Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

About the Author

Jonathan Schell, author of The Unconquerable World and The Fate of the Earth among many other titles, is the Nation Institute’s Harold Willens Peace Fellow. His “Letter from Ground Zero” column appears in The Nation regularly. He also writes for Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, and He is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
kudos to Schell, again Nov. 18 2007
By Winslow Myers - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since he published The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell has shown himself to be the most cogent and unflinching thinker on the planet about the dilemmas of nuclear weaponry. He has evolved an elegant style that gets beyond the portentousness, perhaps unavoidable given the subject, of his earlier classic. But like The Fate of the Earth, The Seventh Decade is composed in a style of high responsibility, as if our lives were dependent upon the success of his arguments, which in a sense they are. This latest book is perhaps his best yet. In a kind of dividend of the main direction of his thought, he provides the clearest analysis I've seen of our government's ultimate rationale for the invasion of Iraq, set in the larger context of American global strategy. In a refreshing refusal to demonize Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, Schell calmly untangles their motivations from the record of events and policy statements, and shows why their larger strategy of total American military domination of the globe, while well-intentioned and even daring, has not only not worked to slow nuclear proliferation, but has actually accelerated it. Schell shows exactly why our post-9/11 American experiment with empire as a way to protect ourselves from both other nuclear powers and from terrorism contains built-in contradictions that doom our hegemonic intentions to inevitable failure. He returns to the bizarre but exhilarating moment of Reykjavik 1986, where Gorbachev and Reagan came close to agreeing to give up their nuclear arsenals altogether, as not only a tragic might-have-been but a model for future efforts. In the end, because Schell faces all the difficulties and complexities directly, this turns out to be a hopeful book about a terrifying subject: p. 14" "Not since the world's second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki has history's third use of a nuclear weapon seemed more likely." If only our leaders would take a quiet day to reflect alongside Schell! But they probably won't, unless we citizens get involved and ask new questions of presidential candidates, like: Is it realistic to think we can solve the nuclear dilemma by endlessly maintaining our double standard of nukes for the "good guys" and no nukes for the "bad guys"?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read For the Concerned Layperson and Expert Scholar Alike Dec 25 2007
By Bruce Roth - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoy reading Schell. He is a brilliant wordsmith and master of metaphor. Schell's keen insight added a new dimension to my understanding of the history of nuclear weapons and their proper role in our future security. There is nothing arcane in The Seventh Decade. It is filled with interesting, informative, and important lessons from history that Americans in particular must be mindful of in order to avoid sharing the fate of every previous great world power, and humanity in general must learn in order to avert causing its own doom.

Bruce A. Roth, Executive Director
Daisy Alliance
Author of "No Time To Kill"
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Nuclear Threat Hasn't Gone Away Jan. 9 2008
By D Jones - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A must read to understand the current nuclear threat and a rational, if not extremely difficult, roadmap to reducing worldwide nuclear weapons hardware to zero. Schell undertands the subject as a longtime expert and makes the point that unless we act, nuclear weapons will proliferate among state and non-state actors who are more likely to employ them than at anytime since 1945.

Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Defense Policy Board and past Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, in a discussion with Jonathan Schell on NPR agreed Schell's proposals were "nice" but not practical. Schell countered that his proposals were "essential" and would be implemented one way or another. He'd prefer they be implemented before a nuclear device or devices were exploded on U.S. soil but they'd certainly be implemented after such a catastrophic event. Adelman believes (as does the Bush Administration) that the best we can hope for are strong non-proliferation efforts, strenghtening nuclear weapons tamper resistance and improved nuclear security for nations which already have them, and the certainty that any nuclear device exploded in America which can be traced to a donor country will result in massive retaliation (read nuclear retaliation).

Schell generally agrees with Adelman and points out we must then take the next step to reducing nuclear weapons hardware worldwide to zero. Probably the most difficult diplomatic task of the 21st Century! An excellent read to fully understand the nature of the threat in this new century.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent April 26 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Schell provides a succint history of the development of nuclear weaponry, the strategic theories of their use and deterrence, and their dangerous proliferation following the end of the Cold War. Our future world with nuclear arms is neither optimistic nor pretty.

This book is an excellent essay for a person who wants a thorough overview of the subject of arms control.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Overemphasizes the Past Nov. 26 2007
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Schell is undoubtedly correct asserting that the threat of nuclear weapons has increased since 9/11 - the risk of Pakistan's weapons falling into terrorist hands is real, Iran's possible weapon-making is a frequent front-page news item, and North Korea continues to threaten. Schell also argues that the U.S.'s switch from diplomatic pressure to military action to enforce non-proliferation creates additional pressure for Iran and North Korea to continue their efforts; worse yet is the administration's refusal to take first use of nuclear weapons off the table.

In addition, the Bush administration upset Russia just prior to 9/11 by pursuing "Star Wars" (SDI) and expanding NATO to include some previous U.S.S.R. areas, Japan is rethinking its "no nuclear weapons" policy in light of North Korea, and Taiwan is probably considering such as well due to China's continual threats and the U.S.'s unwillingness to offer iron-clad guarantees for Taiwan's security. Meanwhile, Brazil announced in 2004 that it was enriching uranium for power uses - a process that only needs to be extended to create atomic weapons, Britain is undertaking a $40 billion or so updating of its nuclear submarines and weapons, and the U.S. is also spending billions on its own updating.

The shortcomings of "Seventh Decade" (of nuclear weapons) are that most of its pages are spent on actions 30+ years prior, it contains little if anything new, and it offers little in the way of recommendations.