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The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger,…
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The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics

by Paul Bracken

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bracken offers an accessible argument for the continued relevance of nuclear weapons to 21st Century international relations and warns against the dangers of complacency. This is not some Dr. Strangelove celebration of nuclear weapons, but rather a frank acknowledgement that state around the world continue to see nuclear weapons as useful. Therefore, nuclear weapons continue to shape international relations, the behavior of states and perceptions of power.

Again, arguing for the importance of studying the role that these weapons play in current foreign relations does not mean that one thinks that they are desirable. It is just a realist recognition of the fact that nuclear weapons are having this effect. It could actually be dangerous for the United States to continue to behave as if they are a relic of the Cold War (the first nuclear age) because it would leave American leaders unprepared for the inevitable crises of the second nuclear age.

Bracken writes for a general audience in a clear, at times casual, manner. He repeatedly mentions his personal experience engaging in studies and exercises regarding nuclear policy during the Cold War, which might provide some added interest for young people interested in the field of defense policy analysis. ( )
  JLHeim | May 13, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It was difficult getting into this book. Perhaps not being familiar with game theory was a factor. The author seemed to nitpick about when the second nuclear age began. Did it overlap with the cold war or was it a separate event. What made me a little suspicious was a fairly obvious mistake in the middle of the book. It was stated that the Israelis had sunk the USS Liberty. While this book is OK, providing some interesting tidbits, it struggled to hold my attention. ( )
  LamSon | Dec 14, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A sobering and eye-opening book. The description of the Middle East crisis game eerily presages and parallels the recent rocket exchanges between Gaza and Israel. It is disturbing that the US is repeating its errors in avoiding considering scenarios of situations contrary to current policy.

It is all well and good to advocate and work towards preventing Iran, North Korea, and other players from acquiring nuclear arms. It is myopic and dangerous to fail to plan for the possibility and eventuality that one or more of them will. The pace with which the crisis game nearly spun out of control may be replicated in real life if US policy makers continue to dig their heels in against even discussing possibilities of less than desirable outcomes.
  dds1981 | Dec 7, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
if you're looking for a book to cheer you up during the holiday season, this probably isn't it. The Second Nuclear Age is a somber assessment of the current state of nuclear affairs in the world. The past duels between cold war superpowers will be replaced in some cases by "truels," three-player conflicts where the weakest player can leverage a nuclear threat to achieve objectives. There are chapters on the Middle East and Southeast Asia; Mr. Bracken officially takes no position on the benefit of a preemptive strike to destroy a potential Iranian nuclear capability but discusses 'thinking about the unthinkable' at some length. As more states and organizations get the bomb there needs to be more scenario planning to manage this new reality.

Give a different book for the holidays, but read this one anyway. Today's tensions can best be addressd by understanding our cold war nuclear history and applying the right lessons during the first crisis, whenever and wherever that occurs, in the second nuclear age. ( )
  ridgeclub | Dec 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Professor Bracken brings needed attention to the nuclear issues and dangers facing the world in the post-Cold War era. He demonstrates that our current policy on nuclear arms, while focusing on the important matter of non-proliferation, significantly neglects to strategically analyze and respond to the reality that nuclear weapons exist (and won't go away) in the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. The presence of nuclear weapons in countries like Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea -- and likely soon in Iran -- make the interactions between parties significantly more complex and intricate. We must recognize how nuclear weapons affect the balance of power, and the range of strategic choices available to nations in conflict if we are to craft a national policy, and partner with other nations, to deal with the exigencies of a post bipartite nuclear world.

Strategic nuclear logic is fascinating because it is often counter intuitive. Their cataclysmic destructive power suggests they simply can never be used, but having them opens up many paths for nation-to-nation interactions that are not conceivable without them. Bracken's book delves deeply into the possibilites for national policies that nuclear weapons create. His description of Iran and Isreal and North Korea v. the workd are illuminating. Perhaps most worrisome is the imbalances in technology and capacity between Pakistan and India which could push a desparate, poorly governed Pakistan over the nuclear brink.

Professor Bracken valuably reminds us that thinking of nuclear weapons as passe, irrelevant weapons in the post Cold War era is a seriously short-sighted view in light of their continued presence and growth among regional powers. ( )
  stevesmits | Dec 3, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Most Americans have thought as little as possible about nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. This uneven but powerful book by Paul Bracken shows why that is a mistake. Like a rumpled professor in an undergraduate seminar, Mr. Bracken takes a long time to get to the heart of his subject. . . . Readers will be tempted to abandon the book early on, but this would be a mistake. . . . Mr. Bracken's view is a powerful one. It holds little comfort for theorists of international relations, whatever their orientation. Liberals will be appalled by his picture of a future in which widespread nuclear weapons impeded the growth of the law-based order they seek. . . . This isn't a cheery book, but it is a valuable one.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead (Nov 16, 2012)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080509430X, Hardcover)

A leading international security strategist offers a compelling new way to "think about the unthinkable."

The cold war ended more than two decades ago, and with its end came a reduction in the threat of nuclear weapons—a luxury that we can no longer indulge. It’s not just the threat of Iran getting the bomb or North Korea doing something rash; the whole complexion of global power politics is changing because of the reemergence of nuclear weapons as a vital element of statecraft and power politics. In short, we have entered the second nuclear age.

In this provocative and agenda-setting book, Paul Bracken of Yale University argues that we need to pay renewed attention to nuclear weapons and how their presence will transform the way crises develop and escalate. He draws on his years of experience analyzing defense strategy to make the case that the United States needs to start thinking seriously about these issues once again, especially as new countries acquire nuclear capabilities. He walks us through war-game scenarios that are all too realistic, to show how nuclear weapons are changing the calculus of power politics, and he offers an incisive tour of the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia to underscore how the United States must not allow itself to be unprepared for managing such crises.

Frank in its tone and farsighted in its analysis, The Second Nuclear Age is the essential guide to the new rules of international politics.

 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:29:02 -0400)

Drawing on years of experience analyzing defense strategy, the author advocates for renewed U.S. attention to nuclear weapons and discusses how their presence will transform the way crises develop and escalate.

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