Looking the Tiger in the Eye: Confronting the Nuclear Threat

Carl B. Feldbaum, Author, Ronald J. Bee, Author
Carl B. Feldbaum, Author, Ronald J. Bee, Author HarperCollins Children's Books $14.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-020414-3
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
The title of this riveting 75-year history of weapons, war and the people that make them comes from a quote by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, who warned that ``until we have looked this tiger in the eye, we shall be in the worst of all possible dangers, which is that we may back into him.'' It is an unflinching study of the events and thinking that led from the machine guns and poison gas of the Great War to the current state of the nuclear arms race. The book takes its power and immediacy from its abundant use of quotes from the people, the panels and the press of the time. The book is especially effective in focusing on the words and thoughts of lesser-known players: the advisors and scientists behind the scenes. The focus is chiefly on the decision-making behind the development of miitary policies, tracing the misunderstandings, the faulty information and, most importantly, the fear that often lay behind the creation of official policy. This fear was responsible, for instance, for the United States' erroneous belief that the Nazis were on the verge of mastering nuclear weapons and the equally erroneous belief that the U.S. could maintain a monopoly on the atom. This is not, however, a shrill pacifist treatise. At times the authors seem to indulge in a fascination with the details of military strategy and they appear to be no great fans of the Soviet Union, but on the whole they remain fairly objective and dispassionate. The book concludes with an essay on democracy, the nuclear freeze movement, disarmament through negotiation and diplomacy, and a final plea to look the tiger in the eye with courage, dedication and patience. It should be required reading. Photos not seen by PW. Ages 12-up. (August)
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