Opinions & Views

Bombs Away

John J. Mearsheimer: Conventional Deterrence; Cornell University Press; Ithaca, NY.

Paul Bracken: The Command and Control of Nuclear Forces; Yale University Press; New Haven, CT.

Two of the major problems facing Western defense and foreign policy are truly Siamese twins: that of deterring nuclear war, and the possibility of a conventional Soviet invasion of Europe. They are intimately linked, for in the event that we are unable to stop an in­vasion of Europe, we are–theoretically–bound to use nuclear weapons, if only tactical ones. And that may well lead to full-scale nuclear war, for few people nowadays have much confidence in the likelihood of limiting the use of nuclear weapons in a European war. While these two books tend to decouple these prob­lems, they are useful analyses of the dilemmas facing us. This is especially true of Mearsheimer's Conventional Deterrence, a work, that, despite some of its controversial and even dubious, interpretations of history, should be of interest to political and military analysts and to diplomatic and military histo­rians. It is an extremely well-researched book that examines the problem of how, in contemporary situations, antagonistic nations decide to embark on nonnuclear war.

Mearsheimer limits his collection of relevant historical situations to the post­-World War I...

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