Brilliant, original, and important--the best analysis yet why nuclear weapons don't work.
Pulizer-prize winning historian Richard Rhodes
Nine nations now possess nuclear weapons and a tenth seems intent on acquiring them. These states and their governments pose an existential threat to all humanity. Ward Wilson's brilliant deconstruction of the myths which cause states to pursue nukes and cling to their arsenals is an important step toward a saner world free of nuclear dangers.
Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center
What makes the case so convincing (although not everyone will be convinced) is that he makes the case not in the spirit of Utopian idealism, but fact-facing pragmatism.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Magisterial in its sweep, research, and erudition, yet written in a direct, unstuffy style, which makes it an easy read.
Commander Robert D. Green, Royal Navy (ret.)
Concise analysis . . . Wilson's theories are certain to create discussion and a reevaluation of assumptions on the topic.
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
This slim, persuasively argued, tightly written book provides much food for thought and could make some readers radically change their perceptions about nuclear weapons.
Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons
If nuclear weapons are militarily useful, if they win wars, then no moral objection or political doubt will stop their spread. But if they are clumsy, messy, indiscriminate, and enormously dangerous weapons whose usefulness has been consistently exaggerated, then questions of disarmament and even abolition take on a different cast.
The book focuses on this question: are nuclear weapons useful? Rather than examine complex theories or moral arguments, it looks at the history of the Cold War and discovers, perhaps not surprisingly, that people who are very afraid sometimes do not demonstrate the soundest judgment. Five myths born out of the Cold War still have a central place in our thinking about nuclear weapons: 1) they won World War II, 2) the H-bomb represented a quantum leap in decisiveness, 3) deterrence is safe and reliable, 4) nuclear weapons have kept the peace for sixty years, and 5) nuclear weapons cannot be gotten rid of.
In each case, a careful examination of the facts sweeps these myths away, revealing a remarkably different picture of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are not awe-inspiring, apocalypse-inducing epochal weapons that reshape the face of history. They are blundering weapons whose chief characteristic is their clumsiness.
The book is a direct challenge to existing ideas about nuclear weapons. Based on thirty years of research into the theories and facts of these weapons, it breaths common sense and practical thinking. It argues that nuclear weapons are not very good weapons, and this conclusion should change the conversation about what to do with them.
Ward says, "In some ways, what has pleased me most is the reception the book has gotten from military officers. Currently serving military officers have difficulty expressing doubts about nuclear weapons. (Military personnel are pledged to carry out orders and cannot express doubts about using nuclear weapons without placing themselves in a professionally difficult position. Air Force officers who deal directly with nuclear weapons simply lose their jobs if they express doubts.) But retired military officers can say better what they truly think. And many of the military personnel I've spoken with have been quite complimentary about the approach of the book. And some have even endorsed the conclusions."
A superb examination of both historical and present day issues surrounding nuclear weapons of war. No matter your background or expertise, before you say or do anything else regarding 'nukes,' I'd strongly recommend you read and give serious consideration to the arguments in this terrific work.
General B. B. Bell, U.S. Army (ret.)
"In the week after the book was published I was asked to speak at the A-10 directorate at the Pentagon: the Air Force's unit in the Pentagon that considers planning, policy, and strategy for nuclear weapons. We had a long amicable conversation and found that we spoke the same language. I was not condemning them as immoral individuals. We were having a discussion about how best to pragmatically protect the interests of the United States."
Ward has since been invited to address a plenary session of the 2013 PrepCom for the Nonproliferation Treaty at the UN in Geneva. He has spoken in the parliaments of Norway and Costa Rica, as well the European Parliament.
"I think the reason the book as stirred so much excitement is that it is a notion whose time has come. People were ready to address this long-standing danger, and the book provides a foundation for rethinking the subject that makes much more sense than the old ideas about mythically powerful technology beyond our control."
Dr. Arias tweeted about the book, recommending it, while in Bahrain at a conference on international security. Ward reports they had a long conversation about many topics, including the prospects for peace and the difficulty of working on nuclear weapons. Ward believes that Costa Rica can speak with a special moral authority on this issue, because they abolished their army in 1949.
Dr. Arias was quietly ebullient over the recently passed treaty restricting small arms trafficking, a project that his Arias Foundation began more than ten years ago. It is not often that one person can move the policy of the world.