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Rotter, a professor of history at Colgate (The Path to Vietnam), proposes to restructure the debate over the atomic bombing of Japan by putting the subject in a global context. His detailed analysis of Japanese reactions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki draws a commonsense conclusion: the nuclear strikes combined with Soviet intervention gave Emperor Hirohito the opening he needed to end a war clearly lost. America alone, however, did not decide to build the bomb; leading scientists in other countries worked on embryonic atomic bomb projects. Nor were Americans alone in considering the bomb's use. In Britain, Germany and Japan, false starts, scarce resources and wartime exigencies limited results. Rotter nevertheless concludes that any other power would have dropped a developed bomb with no more hesitation than the U.S. Ironically, the superpowers' mutual efforts to step away from the abyss in later years were accompanied by increasing and successful efforts by others to join the nuclear club: Britain, France, Israel, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea. The atomic bomb is now "the world's bomb"-as political, cultural and religious contexts increasingly deny that genuine noncombatants exist. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock continues to tick. 18 b&w photos. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.