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Arsenals of Folly - The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race [Paperback]

Richard Rhodes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jan 2009
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb comes this brilliant account of the post-war superpower arms race, climaxing during the Reagan-Gorbachev decade when the United States and the Soviet Union came within scant hours of nuclear war -- and then nearly agreed to abolish nuclear weapons. In a narrative that reads like a thriller, Rhodes reveals how the Reagan administration's unprecedented arms build-up in the early 1980s led the Soviets to conclude that the U.S. must be preparing for a nuclear war -- only for Reagan, out of deep conviction, to launch the arms-reduction campaign of his second presidential term and set the stage for the famous 1986 summit with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, and the breakthroughs that followed. Drawing on personal interviews with both Soviet and U.S. participants, and on a wealth of new documentation that has become available only in the past ten years, Rhodes recounts what actually happened in the final years of the Cold War. The story is new, compelling, and continually surprising -- a revelatory re-creation of a hugely important era of our recent history.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (19 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847391516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847391513
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 677,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Richard Rhodes is the author of several books. He received the Pulitzer prize for THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB and the History of Science Society's Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize for DARK SUN.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Put simply this book bored me - it is misdescribed as a history of the nuclear arms race. It is more a discourse on the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship and the end of the cold war.

Its dull to read, and just lacks something that other books in this subject seem to have, because lets face it you need to have some background knowledge about the technical side (and I do)to know what they are even talking about (payloads, throw weights, MIRVS, MARVS, CEP's,

Re-title and re-package this book! This is one occasion when it is not what it says on the tin (sorry but it had to be said).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly less than the title suggests. 21 Feb 2008
This is a valuable history of the closing stages of the {first?} "Cold War" - concentrating particularly on the Reagan/Gorbachev encounters and the resulting agreements to reduce strategic and tactical weapons in Europe. Written in Richard Rhode's usual authoritative style, with copious references to source documents and many personal interviews with some of the surviving protagonists on both sides, my only reservation is that the book concentrates on the 'end' of the Nuclear Arms Race, rather than on it's making, as one might have inferred from the title. Yes, the author mentions both superpowers' native Military Industrial Complexes as being among the prime reasons for sustaining the billions/trillions of dollars expenditure over some fifty years, but the book doesn't really give any detailed history of the major developments during that period - e.g. the misleading claims made by various American presidential candidates {of both parties} during the 1950's over the so-called 'missile gap', which lead to a vast accelaration in the numbers of nuclear delivery systems and warheads by the time of the 1962 Cuban crisis.
Where the book really does score, and where it's historic relevance extends right up to the present, is that it highlights the extremely pervasive negative influences of some of the people surrounding Reagan -e.g. Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld - who simply couldn't accept the notion of nuclear parity, or the point of any effective reductions in the massive overkill potential of the superpowers, and tried to sabotage the negotiations at every step. Unfortunately these same people came back to even more influential positions in George W. Bush's administratiions, and as Richard Rhodes just stops short of pointing-out too explicitly, were largely responsible for the nature of the US military responses around the world since 9/11.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read 19 Jan 2010
When you read this book you realise just how stupid the cold war was. The book explains clearer how nuclear weapons were developed and then stockpiled by both the Russians and the Americans. It also talks a lot about the politics of nuclear weapons and the importance of the nuclear triad. It takes you through by era the different leaders policies upto Regan and Gorbechev, when through Gorbechevs efforts, constructive talks began to try and reduce the stockpiles. It is a shame when you read about the talks how we could have ended up significantly reducing nuclear weapons if it had not been for Regan, his pet space weapons programme, dubbed Starwars and the military. Some sobering lessons.
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4.0 out of 5 stars When the Bomb nearly disappeared 16 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As noted by another reviewer the title is misleading. This book is about the serious attempts in the 1980's to consign nuclear weaponry to history. It follows on from Dark Sun, the story of the hydrogen bomb. The book starts with a short but comprehensive biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, and moves on to details his encounters with Ronald Reagan, and their attempts to rid the world of atomic bombs. Looking back from the twenty-first century, it is both sad to see how close they got, and heartening to see that we have never since got as close to nuclear war as in the sixties. Perhaps the most important thing to come from the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings was the acknowledgement that a nuclear war was un-winnable by either side, regardless of first strike-second strike policies. it is clear from Mr Rhodes work that the peace process was hampered,and probably eventually de-railed, by vested interests in the military and in the arms industry.
A fascinating read, perhaps one level down in intensity from his first two books. An exception to that is the opening sequence on the Chernobyl disaster, which was absolutely riveting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening thoughts of one who was there. 30 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was on nuclear alert at the time of the Cuba crisis. I did not know just how close we came !!!
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