How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III [NOOK Book]


The president loses control of fifty nukes for nearly an hour. Russian nuclear bombers almost bump wingtips with American fighter jets over the Pacific coast. North Korea detonates nuclear weapons underground. Iran’s nuclear shroud is penetrated by a computer worm. Al-Qaeda goes on the hunt for Pakistan’s bomb, and Israelis debate the merit of a preemptive nuclear strike. ...
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How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

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The president loses control of fifty nukes for nearly an hour. Russian nuclear bombers almost bump wingtips with American fighter jets over the Pacific coast. North Korea detonates nuclear weapons underground. Iran’s nuclear shroud is penetrated by a computer worm. Al-Qaeda goes on the hunt for Pakistan’s bomb, and Israelis debate the merit of a preemptive nuclear strike. Treaties are signed, but thousands of nuclear weapons are still on hair-trigger alert.

This is how the end begins.

In this startling new book, bestselling author Ron Rosenbaum gives us a wake-up call about this new age of peril and delivers a provocative analysis of how close—and how often—the world has come to nuclear annihilation and why we are once again on the brink.

Rosenbaum tracks down key characters in our new nuclear drama and probes deeply into their war game strategies, fears, and moral agonies. He travels to Omaha’s underground nuclear command center, goes deep into the missile silo complexes beneath the Great Plains, and holds in his hands a set of nuclear launch keys.

Along the way, Rosenbaum confronts the missile men as well as the general at the very top of our nation’s nuclear command system with tough questions about the terrifying assumptions underlying it. He reveals disturbing flaws in our nuclear launch control system, suggests remedies for them, shows how the old Cold War system of bipolar deterrence has become dangerously unstable, and examines the new movement for nuclear abolition.

Having explored the depths of Hitler’s evil and the intense emotion of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Rosenbaum now has produced a powerful, urgently needed work that challenges us: Can we undream our nightmare?
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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
This book is a wide-angle and quite dire meditation on our nuclear present; Mr. Rosenbaum is convincingly fearful about where humanity stands…[How the End Begins] is bracing and never dull.
—The New York Times
Richard Rhodes
How the End Begins raises fundamental questions more acutely than dozens of other recent books on the nuclear problem. There is much to learn from it.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
“The virtues of How the End Begins are numerous and impressive . . . this is a deep meditation on the role, meaning, and possible consequences of nuclear weapons in our time.”
—Michael Anton, The Weekly Standard

"Is there a scenario in which nuclear retaliation would be moral? Rosenbaum’s answer is a definitive no. Any reader of this upsetting book will be convinced that he’s right."
—Nathaniel Rich, The Daily Beast

Library Journal
Rosenbaum (Explaining Hitler) argues that the world is in an especially precarious position with the very real danger of nuclear war. He recounts close calls in recent history from many familiar players: India vs. Pakistan, Russia vs. the United States, Israel vs. Iran and terrorist groups, and North Korea's current provocations. He also covers other newer nuclear weapons holders, such as China and Taiwan, and devotes entire chapters to potential issues relating to such human variables as the possibility that someone in the chain of command may question the order to push the button to start a nuclear war. He also considers the importance of numbers: Does the number who could potentially be killed factor into the decision making for nuclear war? What if the decision makers don't think clearly or if they jump the gun? VERDICT Painstakingly researched, with 25 pages of notes, Rosenbaum's book shows that he has clearly done his homework. Predicting outcomes entails speculation, so whether Rosenbaum is correct in his argument remains to be seen. Pointing out how many hot spots there are in the world is eye-opening to the general reader and is particularly timely as more nations become nuclear strongholds.—Krista Bush, Shelton Public Schs., CT
Kirkus Reviews

A veteran author and Slate columnist raises troubling questions about the persistent threat of nuclear war.

How is it that with the end of the Cold War we lost our dread of living in a world with nuclear weapons? We'd do well, argues Rosenbaum (The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups, 2006, etc.), to recover that feeling and act on it, because the possibilities for a catastrophic exchange have actually heightened in this second nuclear age. Whether "by calculated preemption, a regional war going global, accident, misperception, inadequate command and control, suicidal martyrdom, or [a] madman's hubris," we risk touching off, from a number of predictable flashpoints, a nuclear World War III. The author examines these contingencies, providing especially solid insight on the flaws in the command and control systems of Russia and America, the historical memory that makes Israel more likely to unleash nuclear weapons and the frightening details surrounding the under-reported 2007 Israeli raid on a Syrian reactor. However, Rosenbaum's chief merit is his willingness to confront the morality of nuclear retaliation. He crystallizes the dilemma by reviving a question raised almost 40 years ago by Maj. Harold I. Hering, a crewman in training: "How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?" For his impertinence, Hering lost his career. Nevertheless, his question lingers. As Rosenbaum discovers from interviews with military figures, statesmen, nuclear scientists and strategists, statistical mavens, law professors and others, few are prepared to answer it. There remains a powerful nuclear establishment confident the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked, that the taboo against employing these singularly destructive weapons remains in place. The author's review of several nuclear close calls suggests we've only been lucky. Although pessimistic about our chances for turning back the atomic clock—his own plan calls for reviving Adm. Arleigh Burke's submarine-based deterrence strategy, destroying land-based missiles and removing the hair-trigger from any remaining arsenal—he insists we must try, or we face a certain cataclysm.

A tenaciously reported, passionately argued warning.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439190074
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 673,196
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Ron Rosenbaum is the bestselling author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars and has written or edited six other books. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He writes a column for Slate and lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

1 "We Came So Close" 1

2 Major Hering's Forbidden Question 31

3 The Forbidden Question at the Qwest Center 44

4 The Number 71

5 Bruce Blair: The Doomsday Discovery and the Real Danger 88

6 Colonel Yarynich's "100 Nuclear Wars," and the Apocalypse Equation 111

7 "The Ashes Are Still Warm": The Second Holocaust, Israel, and the Morality of Nuclear Retaliation 132

8 Iran: The "Enigmatic Box" and the NIE 166

9 Endgame 209

Notes 261

Index 287

Acknowledgments 301

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 3, 2011

    Fictitious and lacking...

    You'd expect this book to come out of Tom Clancy fiction at the least. The author "predicts" the end of times by igniting a nuclear war through the most improbable and illogical happenings and then deepens the war by having major powers take even more illogical approaches to the matter. This is almost like reading bad fiction to say the least, I respected this authors' work on Hitler, but this book was poorly thought out and it lacks a ton of research, especially when he describes the "flaws" of nuclear systems.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Sobering. Very, very sobering. This could happen!!

    Rosenbaum makes some salient points regarding the hair-trigger condition of potential nuclear holocaust. He gets a bit wordy in who said what to whom, and what did they really mean in that statement, etc, but his point is well taken. The world is very close to self destruction. Again... sobering. very sobering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012


    This book has many improbable scenerios and sounds entirely fictional and if you want too warn someone about a nuclear war scenerio, talk about Iran's nuclear programs or North Koreas missile testing over the past few weeks.

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  • Posted March 7, 2011


    sounds cool...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 20, 2011

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    Posted March 13, 2012

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    Posted January 18, 2013

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    Posted April 4, 2013

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