Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of Americas Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that lingers to this day.
Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.
Here, for the first time, former high level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of Americas nuclear program in the 1960s. From the most remote air bases in the Pacific Command - where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower (which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity) Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization - and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration threatens our very survival. No other insider with high level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
The Doomsday Machine is a real-life Dr. Strangelove story and an ultimately hopeful, powerfully important book about not simply our country, but the future of our world. It is being published at an alarmingly relevant moment, as North Korea is seeking the capability to target the United States with nuclear missiles, and an unpredictable president, Donald Trump, has countered with threats of fire and fury. Experts on North Korea say that the risk of a nuclear exchange is higher than it has been in recent memory. Ellsberg, as one of the few living members of the generation of theorists who devised our nuclear strike doctrines, has been grappling with such possibilities for much of his life. It is kind of astonishing, he says, that people will put up with a non-zero chance of this happening. Even after many disarmament treaties, Russia and the United States still possess enough weaponry to destroy the world many times over. There is no essential difference between having 1,500 weapons, each side, on a hair trigger, pointed at each other, and having five or ten thousand, he says. For this reason, Ellsberg is happy that Trump has shown a deferential stance toward Russia. On the other hand, facing North Korea, Trump has been willing to make explicit nuclear threats. But even if their missiles cant reach us quite yet, Ellsberg the game theorist believes that Kim Jong-un has probably devised some sort of strategy to assure that he isnt destroyed alone. He says that the worlds survival, so far, has been something like a miracle.
LARRY BENSKY is the former National Affairs Correspondent for Pacifica Radio (KPFA). He
Teaches Political Science at California State University East Bay. In 1987 he received a George Polk Award for his coverage of the Iran-Contra Hearings in Washington, D.C.
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