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Sober Thoughts on Nuclear Paradox

K. Subrahmanyam

Edited by Franklyn Griffith  and John C. Polyani
University of Toronto Press, 1979, pp. 197, price not stated.

VOLUME V NUMBER 1 July/August 1980

The Dangers of Nuclear War is in mark­ed contrast to the bulk of the literature on nuclear war generated in the West. The central message of the book is, to quote Lord Zuckermann, ‘that wars may start as central planners predict but history shows that they rarely if ever proceed or need end as predicted.’ The book is therefore a plea for abandoning the idea of winning a nuclear war, It highlights that a war that unleashes nuclear weaponry in the world today would be a disaster beyond anything the world has known and surely beyond our imagination. It focusses on the paradox that according to the accepted theories of today the avoidance of nuclear war requires both stable general deterrence and deep restraint in reliance on nuclear weaponry of any sort. It pleads for a new readiness for imaginative political action both for drastic arms limitation and increased international understand­ing. All these are in refreshing contrast to the general run of strategic literature from the West which dwells on nuclear war winning strategies, counter force strategies possibility of limited nuclear war, desirability of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear adversaries in certain contexts, etc. One does find some contributions in the book which would reflect this approach but the majority of the contributions reflect sober realism in regard to the enormous uncertainties that envelope a nuclear war. The most valuable contribution in the book is not from among the papers contributed by the participants but the observations of Lord Zuckermann, for­mer Scientific Adviser to the British Ministry of Defence, during the discus­sions. He has demolished many of the myths generated in regard to the feasi­bility of conducting a nuclear war and bringing it to a conclusion. He has pointed out that all the military exercises conducted lead to the conclusion that nuclear weapons cannot be used in field warfare without uncontrollable escala­tion. These views of Lord Zuckermann had also been echoed recently by Lord Louis Mountbatten in an article in Inter­national Security, contributed just before his assassination. There are valuable contributions in the book which discuss the feasibility of some categories of nuclear weapons exchange, command and control problems, new weaponry regional nuclear war and tardy progress in arms control measures. An interesting contribution comes from William Epstein on nuclear terro­rism and nuclear war. Epstein has drawn attention to the possibility of ...

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