Scorpion King: America's Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump

Scorpion King: America's Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump


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“We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.” — ROBERT OPPENHEIMER

Scorpion King: America's Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump is a history of America's corrosive affair with nuclear weapons, and the failed efforts to curb this radioactive ardor through arms control. The book's title refers to the allusion by Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the American atomic bomb, to dueling scorpions when discussing the deadly nuclear rivalry between the US and Soviet Union, and signals the dangers inherent in the resumption of the perilous US drive for nuclear supremacy.
Providing a vivid and gripping A-Z history of America's deceptive use of arms control as a means of actually furthering its quest for nuclear dominance, Ritter sheds light on a contradictory US agenda little understood by the lay reader, while providing sufficient detail and context to engage the specialist.
Originally published by Nation Books in 2010 under the title Dangerous Ground, this new version has been streamlined and significantly expanded to account for the failed arms control policies of the Obama administration, and the rejection of arms control as a policy during the first term of the Trump administration.
The Trump administration has pulled out of one landmark arms control treaty, the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, and is threatening to let another, the 2010 New START treaty, expire. The terrifying Cuban missile crisis of 1962 demonstrated the apocalyptic folly of nuclear arsenals operating without limitation, and led to reciprocal constraints that moderated the nuclear ambitions of both the US and Soviet Union Those constraints, for the most part, no longer exist. The next missile crisis could prove terminal for humanity.
Scorpion King is a book that can, and should, occupy the shelves of academic libraries, diplomats and military professionals, as well as make the reading lists of concerned citizens, given the dangerous state of US and Russian relations, now hovering on the cusp of a new and increasingly hazardous nuclear arms race. It provides a road map showing how we collectively returned to the nuclear cliff edge, and shines light on the possibility of an exit from a seemingly endless dark tunnel.
Providing context for the forthcoming 2020 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Scorpion King is must reading for an imperiled world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781949762181
Publisher: Clarity Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/2020
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 516
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Scott Ritter is a former Marine intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union, implementing arms control agreements, and on the staff of General Schwartzkopf during the Gulf War, where he played a critical role in the hunt for Iraqi SCUD missiles. From 1991 until 1998, Mr. Ritter served as a Chief Inspector for the United Nations in Iraq, leading the search for Iraq's proscribed weapons of mass destruction. He was a vocal critic of the US decision to go to war with Iraq. Dealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Agreement was his eigth book.

William R. Polk, the author of Understanding Iraq, taught at Harvard until becoming the member of the State Department's Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East in 1961. He served as head of the interdepartmental task force on the Algerian war and was a member of the crisis management subcommittee during the Cuban missile crisis. After leaving government, he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.

Read an Excerpt

“We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle,
each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.” Robert Oppenheimer

The suicidal nature of nuclear weapons has long been recognized by the man responsible for their being brought into this world. Oppenheimer's belated wisdom, however, never translated into sound policy, and for the ensuing decades to come, the United States has struggled to come to grips with the horrible reality of Oppenheimer's creation. Just how dangerous is a nation that has given in twice to the temptation to use them?.
In 2010 I wrote a book, Dangerous Ground: America's failed Arms Control policy, from FDR to Obama, to put into historical perspective America's tortuous relationship with nuclear weapons, and our seeming inability to free ourselves of from this scourge through the vehicle of arms control. At the time, I was hopeful that the new administration of President Barack Obama might be able to put into action the promise of his words signaling an intent to awaken America from its nuclear nightmare.
In the decade that followed, I watched in frustration as President Obama failed to overcome America's national addiction to nuclear weapons, falling victim to the same policy traps and bureaucratic inertia as had his predecessors. I then watched in horror as his successor, Donald Trump, assumed control of the White House and began eviscerating what remained of the delicate framework of arms control that had served to keep the nuclear genie contained in its bottle.
Oppenheimer's analogy of two scorpions worked during the Cold War, when nuclear parity existed between the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, however, the United States, having convinced itself that it prevailed in the Cold War and that it reigns supreme as the sole remaining superpower on the planet, no longer views nuclear weapons as the vehicle for mutual suicide that gave meaning to Oppenheimer's analogy. As any military veteran who has spent time in the deserts of the Middle East knows, not all scorpions are equal—if you put a superior scorpion in a bottle with its inferior, it will emerge victorious.
That is the reality of how America views its relationship with nuclear weapons today—there may be many scorpions in the bottle, but only one scorpion king, the supreme scorpion who has the capacity to exterminate all others. In its mind, America is the Scorpion King..

Table of Contents

Foreword William R. Polk vii

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Genie Escapes 5

Chapter 2 Red Scare Myths 25

Chapter 3 Massive Retaliation 47

Chapter 4 Missile Gaps 63

Chapter 5 SIOP Versus "Big Ivan" 81

Chapter 6 On the Edge of the Nuclear Abyss 107

Chapter 7 Unfulfilled Promises 126

Chapter 8 Missed Opportunities 151

Chapter 9 Peace through Strength 181

Chapter 10 The End of Détente 207

Chapter 11 The Cold War Begins Anew 234

Chapter 12 Three Minutes 'til Midnight 271

Chapter 13 The Triumph of Reason 298

Chapter 14 Neglect and Decay 336

Chapter 15 The End of Arms Control 378

Chapter 16 Failure to Launch 410

Chapter 17 Scorpion King 444

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