Fire In the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age

Fire In the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age

by Paul Bracken

View All Available Formats & Editions

On May 11, 1998, India began testing nuclear weapons.
The world will never be the same.

The Indian test of five atomic bombs, and the Pakistani tests that answered a few weeks later, marked the end of the arms control system that has kept the world from nuclear war for half a century. As Paul Bracken, professor of management and political science at Yale


On May 11, 1998, India began testing nuclear weapons.
The world will never be the same.

The Indian test of five atomic bombs, and the Pakistani tests that answered a few weeks later, marked the end of the arms control system that has kept the world from nuclear war for half a century. As Paul Bracken, professor of management and political science at Yale University, explains in this landmark study, they signal the reemergence of something the world hasn't seen since the sixteenth century-modern technologically adept military powers on the mainland of Asia.

In Fire in the East, Professor Bracken reveals several alarming trends and secrets, such as how close Isreal actually came to a germ warfare attack during the Gulf War, why "globalization" will spur the development of weapons of mass destruction, how American interests are endangered by Asian nationalism, and how to navigate what he names the second nuclear age. Fire in the East is a provocative account of how the Western monopoly on modern arms is coming to an end, and how it will forever transform America's role on the stage of international politics.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"A multipolar balance of terror stretches over a six-thousand-mile arc, comprising some of the most unstable countries on earth." Such ominous phrases abound in this alarming vision of the post-Cold War geopolitical landscape. Yale political scientist Bracken (Command and Control of Nuclear Forces) takes the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan as his cue to make an argument that the nuclear genie is out of the bottle. Increased cash reserves brought about by the global economy enable governments to buy nuclear technology; therefore, in the 21st century, Asian nations will be able to achieve a measure of military parity with the West not seen for half a millennium. Parts of the book get rather technical, as Bracken addresses military strategy and takes interesting digressions into Asian military history. However, whether he's writing about the oil-rich but politically unstable Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union or more traditional Asian powers such as China and India, Bracken always returns to his theme that the days when the West was the dominant military power in Asia (a period that stretches from the beginning of European colonialism to today's American military hegemony) are numbered. While very clear and persuasive in making his case that the availability of nuclear weapons will change the Asian geopolitical landscape and the relationship between the West and Asia, Bracken is less clear about what the West should do to manage this inevitable shift. He does clearly outline the options (arms control, balance-of-power diplomacy among them), and his book stands as a sobering reminder that economic globalization is as likely to give rise to geopolitical tension as it is to peace and prosperity. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Bracken (political science, Yale) argues convincingly in this book-length essay that when Pakistan and India engaged in their 1998 series of nuclear tests, the power balance of the world radically changed. The Eurocentric model of the last 400 years has given way to one in which Asian countries with border problems or grandiose ideas and access to new generations of small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons can attempt to upset the power balance in Asia, with disastrous consequences. At a time when our morning papers report on Iraq and anthrax, China and purloined American nuclear secrets, and North Korea and a ballistic missile program, this is thought-provoking reading. For general-interest and foreign-policy collections, this essay merits careful perusal along with the front pages of the news.--Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

No Room On The Chessboard

The world is moving at warp speed. A button pushed at a trading desk in New York affects prices around the world in seconds and ripples through the world's economy in a matter of days or weeks. Transfixed by twenty-four-hour news broadcasts and by real-time financial data around the clock and the mountains of information flickering continuously across the Internet, Western leaders in the 1990s have devoted themselves to detecting and responding to short-term phenomena.

But the world is also moving at slow speed. Slow-motion change is barely perceived. When India and Pakistan tested their atomic bombs in 1998, Western leaders were transfixed by a stock market collapse in Indonesia. The twin bomb programs had been under way for fifteen years, but Western leaders, and certainly the media, were absorbed in the breaking story -- a financial panic! hurried conferences of central bankers aimed at restoring confidence! statements! leaks! denials! -- right up until the video of the blasts showed up on CNN. Only then did the nuclear arming of South Asia, overlooked for years, commandeer the world's attention.

In Slowness, the novelist Milan Kundera draws a connectionbetween change and forgetfulness. We are caught up in the spiral of events, lost in its energy, blind to the accumulation of slow changes remaking our world. Without our noticing, the political and military map of Asia -- one-third of the earth's landmass, with almost two-thirds of the world's population -- is being redrawn. The Asia of the cold war, a disjointed collection of subregions and military theaters, no longer exists, not even notionally. Instead, the Westmust adopt a new paradigm, a geography of strategic interactions, in which the old barriers of distance and terrain have lost their meaning. These are some of the factors shaping it:

Europe, called the cockpit of the world because it has been the locus of so many major wars, is now more secure than it has been in ages. As a result, European armed forces have been cut back to the point where Europe is no longer a serious military power. The British navy takes to the seas with centuries of proud tradition behind it, but with fewer submarines than India has. The French armed forces are so technically backward that they are virtually irrelevant except for low-intensity peacekeeping missions. European armed forces are hopelessly unprepared when it comes to the kind of modern fighting the United States engaged in during the Gulf War. Between nuclear retaliation and peacekeeping, they have few capacities.

An unbroken belt of countries from Israel to North Korea (including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and China) has assembled either nuclear or chemical arsenals and is developing ballistic missiles. A multipolar balance of terror stretches over a 6,000-mile arc, comprising some of the most unstable countries on earth, with no Western allies in the sense in which the term is used within the Atlantic alliance.

This arc of terror cuts across the military and political theaters into which the West conveniently divided Asia, essentially forthe purposes of fighting the cold war: the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia. The ballistic missile, once launched, does not turn back at the line that separates the territory of one State Department desk from another. Thus, the Gulf War brought the troubles of the Persian Gulf to Israel, linking theaters that had once been considered separate. Israel, for its part, sends up satellites to spy on Pakistan, 2,000 miles away, spooking Islamabad into seeing an Indian-Israel squeeze play against it. Chinese and Indian military establishments plot against each other, making East and South Asia one military space.

The great interior of Asia is in play again. What used to be called "inner Asia" was stable for most of the century in the iron grip of two Communist giants. But in the face of Russia's decline, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey are all vying for influence among the Central Asian countries that emerged from the Soviet breakup. These are countries that even most educated and well-traveled Americans know virtually nothing about: Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan.

The world energy map is being redrawn as China, India, South Korea, and Southeast Asia industrialize. New oil and gas fields in the trans-Caspian, in Central Asia, and beneath the Asian continental shelf will radically change the direction of flows of oil and gas around the globe.

Despite these profound changes, the United States continues to see Eurasia as a chessboard, where the object of the game is to prevent the rise of any country that could challenge Western military superiority. The West's dual strategy is to pursue its own technological superiority at all costs while trying to keep any other player from amassing advanced armaments. The United States and the Soviet Union, even as they competed in the cold war, essentially ran things so that no third country could upset the Asian balance. That was easy when Asian military capability was limited. But year by year the playing surface is shrinking and the game is changing as the pieces on the board become more powerful. The ballistic missile has empowered pawns to check the dominant powers; countries that were once pawns now have the reach of knights and bishops.

In the early 1990s the United States pretty much ran things byitself But in the face of increasing Asian missile power and weaponsof mass destruction, it has tried to include China as a possible partner in imposing political and military order on the continent. The Indians, not caring for this arrangement, made their views knownwith five nuclear shots. Much more than a military test, the 1998Indian exercise was a signal from one of the pawns about how thegame was going to be played from now on. Players on the Eurasianchessboard are running out of room. The maneuver space is becoming more tightly coupled. When a move is made in one area -- U.S.partnership with China -- it reverberates almost at once in another -- India testing nuclear bombs to signal disapproval. New rules willhave to be written, and new strategies developed, to replace the"arrangement politics" that prevailed when one or two major piecesdominated a board filled with pawns.

Asia's Changing Geography

The chessboard is also a map, and looking at it this way is usefull: it forces us to think through in concrete terms how physical units -- armies, ships, satellites, missiles -- can be deployed in space and time, and how political power grows from them.

Fire In The East. Copyright © by Paul Bracken. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Paul Bracken is a professor of management and political science at Yale University and a well-established expert in the field of international politics. He has served as a consultant to nearly all of the post-cold war government reassessments of national security, including those for the Department of Defense and the CIA. He is the author of Command and Control of Nuclear Forces.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >