Books of Note
The Bomb: A New History
Stephen M. Younger, Harper Collins, 2009, 238 pp.
Stephen M. Younger, formerly associate director for nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, calls for a new strategic force structure to fit the changed world after the Cold War. Recognizing that there are ever fewer potential uses for nuclear weapons beyond deterrence, Younger argues for a force structure equivlent to one-quarter to one-half the 2,200 operational warheads allowed under the 2002 U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. He also argues that most of the arsenal should consist of much less powerful weapons than the 300- to 500-kiloton weapons employed today. This force structure would likely put counterforce tactics into the ash bin of history because no longer could one side even claim to be able to attack the other side's ICBM silos meaningfully. It could, however, raise concerns that smaller nuclear weapons, because of their size, might be used more often, lowering the threshold for attacks and making the use of nuclear weapons more likely.
The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation
By Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman, MBI Publishing Co., 2009, 393 pp.
Former Los Alamos nuclear weapons designers Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman trace the history of the spread of nuclear weapons technology, from the discovery of nuclear fission in the 1930s to the present-day threat of nuclear terrorism. The authors describe in considerable depth the motivations, technical challenges, and weaponization paths of the first nuclear powers, particularly China and the Soviet Union. They then turn to how nuclear technology has become increasingly diffuse in the latter years of the Cold War. Looking to the future, the authors highlight a rising China and radical Islam as the two most serious proliferation threats and propose five steps for countering these concerns: securing nuclear material, strengthening international safeguards, reducing the U.S. reliance on oil from the Middle East, rebuilding the U.S. intelligence community, and containing Chinese proliferation.
Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia: Crisis Behavior and the Bomb
Edited by Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur, Routledge, 2009, 251 pp.
The authors in this volume offer contrasting optimistic and pessimistic accounts of the role nuclear weapons played during four confrontations between India and Pakistan since 1986. The optimists argue that nuclear weapons act as a stabilizing influence in South Asia by compelling Indian and Pakistani decision-makers to act with restraint when conflict has arisen. Pessimists contend that nuclear weapons have destabilized the region by, among other things, emboldening Pakistan to take aggressive steps despite India's conventional military advantage. The four Indo-Pakistani conflicts considered are the 1986-1987 "Brasstacks" confrontation, the 1990 standoff over Kashmir, the 1999 Kargil war, and the 2001-2002 crisis sparked by a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. Two final chapters consider the lessons of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan with regard to the possible next generation of nuclear-weapon states, North Korea and Iran. The adversarial structure of the book is meant, according to the editors, to foster dialogue between the optimistic and pessimistic conceptions of nuclear proliferation in South Asia.
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