cover image How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

Ron Rosenbaum, Simon & Schuster, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4165-9421-5

Rosenbaum (The Shakespeare Wars), an investigative reporter and Slate columnist, examines the potential for and consequences of nuclear conflict in this sobering, well-argued study. Drawing on decades of study in the field, the author points to a new world that will feature multiple nuclear powers that pose a threat for "touching off a regional nuclear war that could escalate to global scale." Nuclear weapons in the hands of such unstable regimes as Pakistan, North Korea, or Iran is not Rosenbaum's only concern. He worries about Russia's "new bellicosity" and its shoring up and modernization of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, he argues that the Obama administration's new START treaty preserves a dangerous status quo that leaves in place a "rickety" nuclear command and control system with a "one percent per year" risk of failure. After examining and reluctantly dismissing the prospects for nuclear disarmament, the author concludes with a stark warning: "It's all about luck now. I'm a pessimist." In clear, crisp language, Rosenbaum not only vividly details his personal odyssey "to map out the terra incognita... of the new nuclear landscape," but also challenges the rest of us to confront the gathering storm. (Mar.)