Bracken (Fire in the East), Yale political scientist and an adviser to the Defense Department, addresses the uncomfortable subject of post–cold war nuclear management. He convincingly describes a 21st-century “second nuclear age” characterized by proliferation. Nuclear weapons have become established aspects of regional, as well as global military strategy—not least because of growing distrust of U.S. intentions. At the same time, U.S. policy, politics, and public opinion on the subject are influenced by a dangerous synergy of government “denial of nuclear reality” and hope mongering that catastrophe can be avoided. Bracken makes a solid case for applying intelligence and clearheaded analysis of a “new logic of Armageddon” focused on nuclear powers in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. His potential scenarios include a nuclear Iran, a nuclear Indo-Pakistan confrontation, and a China combining nuclear capacity with the ability to move faster than its rivals. For America he recommends a primer on nuclear strategy, a readmission of nuclear weapons to the nation’s dialogue on security planning, a proactive policy as opposed to the reactive caution of the first nuclear era. There are no guarantees—but he makes a strong argument that depending on “prudence and luck” is a recipe for disaster. Agent: Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management. (Nov.)
Defense Department consultant Bracken (Fire in the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age, 1999, etc.) writes that the nuclear genie is truly out of the bottle, and current efforts at nuclear disarmament ignore geopolitical realities. "The U.S. desire for a nonnuclear world," writes the author, "gives America's opponents a reason to manipulate developments in the other direction…and to shift competition to areas where they feel they have greater advantage." Thus, when the U.S. disengages from Afghanistan and Iraq, there will still be a nuclear China to contend with--and, if trends continue, a nuclear Iran. In the days of the Cold War, Bracken writes, things were easy; the superpowers subscribed to the theory of mutually assured destruction, and no one was going to pull the trigger knowing that would be the end of it all. Now, he argues, the dynamics have taken "an ominous new turn," and the idea of mutually assured destruction has seen its day. Besides, he notes, the superpowers found that a nuclear arsenal was a "most useful weapon," and if it was good enough for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, then why not for Pakistan, Iran and North Korea as well? Bracken notes that though Iran and Pakistan present opportunities for worry, nearby India is more heavily armed, if happily a democracy. He urges multilateralism in any future weapons accords--and, he suggests, the old treaties need reworking--adding that it might make a refreshing change to see an arms control initiative that does not originate with the U.S., which "has led to a bland, uninspiring agenda." Bracken's prescriptions on how to deal with an increasingly nuclear world are surely debatable, but to gauge by this well-tempered essay, it's a debate worth holding.
“Mr. Bracken's view is a powerful one. . . . The questions [he] raises about the sustainability of current American foreign policy thinking are particularly timely. Nuclear strategy must come out of its post-Cold War retirement. We are once again in a world where nuclear weapons count.” Walter Russell Mead, The Wall Street Journal
“Penetrating. . . . Bracken is an example of why fresh and fearless thinking is required when considering the near-term future of geopolitics. . . . Everyone interested in nuclear proliferation in the Middle East should read [this book].” Robert D. Kaplan, Stratfor, author of The Revenge of Geography
“This is an important book, necessary reading for anyone looking to understand nuclear weapons and how they might be used, directly or indirectly, in future conflicts around the world. Paul Bracken is a rigorous critic, convincing and unsentimental in his discussion of the strategic and political context of the subject. This is no simplistic vision of Armageddon.” George Friedman, author of The Next 100 Years, CEO of Stratfor
“Paul Bracken has written an alarming and compelling wake-up call. He argues that as new countries acquire nuclear capabilities, the cold war rules of the road no longer apply and we ignore the complexities of today’s environment at our peril. He provides an instructive history of how we got here and is practical and provocative in recommending possible solutions.
Read this book. We should not wait for the first nuclear crisis of this century to start thinking about what to do differently.” Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“Read this book. We should not wait for the first nuclear crisis of this century to start thinking about what to do differently.” Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“Challenging the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, Paul Bracken argues that we have already entered a second nuclear weapons age and that the United States needs to face that reality. His book is well worth reading.” Graham Allison, director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, and author of Essence of Decision and Nuclear Terrorism
“Put Paul Bracken in charge of our nuclear policy for the twenty-first century. The Second Nuclear Age is a superb analysis of why and how a continuation of our Cold War nuclear forces and doctrines will fail, and how we can make them safer and far more strategically useful.” R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence
“In this bookwhich could hardly be more timelyPaul Bracken dissects the dangerous and often neglected realities of 'the second nuclear age' and argues for bold, innovative, and often provocative ways to think about how to avert those dangers. Precisely because he challenges orthodox doctrines and practices and argues forcefully for his own strong views, he helps ensure that one of the most important, complex, and controversial issues of our time will get the hard-headed attention it deserves.” Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former U.S. deputy secretary of state