How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

Ron Rosen­baum
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III recounts sev­er­al instances when the world came close to nuclear war. The author, Ron Rosen­baum, main­tains that even with the demise of the Sovi­et Union, the threat of nuclear war is ris­ing due to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear weapons among unstable/​aggressive coun­tries such as Pak­istan and Iran. The fact that Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States con­tin­ue to keep their respec­tive nuclear forces on a hair-trig­ger alert is also of great con­cern to the author. 

Rosen­baum does a good job sur­vey­ing sev­er­al cas­es where nuclear war almost occurred, includ­ing the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis and the Yom Kip­pur War (1973). On occa­sion he becomes over­wrought as when he spec­u­lates that the 2007 Israeli Air Force raid on the Syr­i­an nuclear reac­tor could have pro­voked Rus­sia to threat­en to launch a nuclear attack against Israel. Rosen­baum does a bet­ter job, how­ev­er, in his inter­views of var­i­ous peo­ple who have held jobs in the nuclear arms field. He asks each of them to eval­u­ate the ethics of launch­ing a retal­ia­to­ry nuclear strike killing tens of mil­lions of peo­ple fol­low­ing a dev­as­tat­ing nuclear attack against the Unit­ed States. The crux of the eth­i­cal dilem­ma is that if nuclear deter­rence failed and the pop­u­la­tion of the Unit­ed States was wiped out, what would be the point of launch­ing a retal­ia­to­ry strike that would result in the loss of tens of mil­lions of addi­tion­al lives? 

Much of the book focus­es on this eth­i­cal ques­tion and the answers that var­i­ous peo­ple pro­vide. It is inter­est­ing to hear the respons­es of those who were tasked with pos­si­bly launch­ing a nuclear retal­ia­to­ry strike.

Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia spe­cial­iz­ing in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law and inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in MID­STREAM Mag­a­zine includ­ing an arti­cle con­cern­ing Israeli mil­i­tary options regard­ing Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram., as well as in the Mid­dle East Review of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs

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