Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Danger, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

Richard Rhodes, Simon & Schuster, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-26754-2
In this absorbing conclusion to his chronicle of the nuclear age, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) describes the post–Cold War shift in the status of nuclear weapons from existential menace to alarming but tractable police problem. He focuses on attempts by the U.S. and the international community to squelch proliferation threats: efforts by UN inspectors to unearth and dismantle Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program; white-knuckle negotiations over North Korea's bomb-making project; initiatives to return the defunct Soviet Union's nukes to Russia and keep its unemployed atomic scientists from getting into mischief; the campaign to convince non-nuclear states to stay that way through a permanent non-proliferation treaty. Rhodes makes the technical issues lucid and accessible, and the tale also has intrigue and suspense, heroes (Jimmy Carter) and villains (the Bush administration). It's a story of deceit, corrupt politics, and diplomatic half-measures, but also of improbable outbreaks of common sense and far-sightedness as doomsday stockpiles are bargained downward and nations grudgingly abandon nuclear ambitions. Rhodes shows us the heartening spectacle of humanity slowly turning away from the abyss. Photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/28/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
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