cover image My Journey at the Nuclear Brink

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink

William J. Perry. Stanford Univ, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8047-9712-2

Perry, more technocrat than politician, emphasizes his efforts to prevent nuclear war in this sincere and nontriumphalist memoir. Perry, an early Silicon Valley CEO, served as the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the Carter administration, before returning to the private sector during the 1980s. Perry was recalled to government service during the Clinton Administration, briefly as Undersecretary of Defense (1993–1994) and then Secretary of Defense (1994–1997); he carried out the Nunn-Lugar program, which dismantled thousands of nuclear weapons in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. In 1996, Russian troops served under an American commander as peacekeepers in Bosnia, marking (in Perry’s blunt assessment) the high point in the possibility of a nuclear-free world. Then, despite his protests, NATO admitted the three Baltic states and began “the early processing of Georgia and Ukraine” for membership, enraging Russia. Since that time, Russia, under the pugnacious Vladimir Putin, has expanded its nuclear arsenal just as the alarmingly unpredictable nations of North Korea and Pakistan have further developed their nuclear capabilities. The obligatory how-to-fix-it conclusion is not encouraging, failing to go beyond vague tactics such as “education of the public.” Perry’s admirable memoir is a disturbing reminder that the danger of nuclear war did not disappear with the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Dec.)