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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III Hardcover – Mar 1 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416594213
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416594215
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #494,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1064120) out of 5 stars 22 reviews
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a53c9c) 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 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a53ee8) out of 5 stars Basically an internal monologue May 23 2011
By Joey Bee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a55144) out of 5 stars Thoughtful Exploration of Nuclear Dilemma March 24 2011
By Albigensian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The author starts by assuming that most nations build nuclear weapons not because they wish to use them but because they wish to deter others from using theirs. The central question explored in this book is, what would be the morality of nuclear retaliation if a day comes when deterrence has failed?

This is a somewhat circular argument, in that deterrence depends upon convincing one's potential enemies that retaliation is certain. Submarine-launched missiles can provide a second strike capability, as subs could launch devastating attacks even if the nation that owns them no longer exists.

And yet ... if your country has already been destroyed, then what is there to gain from launching your nuclear weapons-- other than to kill tens or hundreds of millions who otherwise might live?

And yet, and yet: if one is not willing to implement a nuclear policy that ensures retaliation after an attack, are one's enemies not likely to discern this? And when they do, won't they be more likely to attack? And if so, wouldn't implementing such a policy increase the probability of nuclear war?

All of this assumes there are people in the world who would choose to commit mass murder. The author clearly believes there are, as his reference is Hitler and the holocaust. Further, he recognizes that Israel could be totally destroyed by just one or two nuclear bombs, and that it is surrounded by many who speak openly of extermination.

But then he runs up against the morality of retaliation after deterrence has failed, and his moral principles just will not let him go there. As he sees it, once all is lost then retaliation can never be justified. And if retaliation cannot be justified, then a policy based on it must be immoral and should be abandoned.

In the end, the author really doesn't offer a solution, other than perhaps a vague, utopian plea that perhaps nuclear weapons can be banished from the world. What I found irritating about this book was the author's frequent and sometimes sarcastic dismissal of those who disagree with him.

I personally find the logic of nuclear deterrence compelling. Since the risk of a nuclear doomsday can never be completely eliminated, remaining choices can only reduce it. In a world in which nuclear weapons cannot be made to just go away, a policy of sure retaliation seems the best (although surely not perfect) defense against their use.

Although I mostly disagree with the author, he has written a lively and thought-provoking book. I recommend it to all who are interested in such questions. It certainly is not boring!
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a553c0) 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.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a55258) out of 5 stars I think this book is dishonest April 7 2012
By BernardZ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.