PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMost historians agree that the world came closest to a nuclear war with the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when President John Kennedy discovered that the Soviet Union had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba and warned Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove them—or else. For two weeks messages flashed back and forth between Moscow and Washington. As tension mounted and U.S. forces, including nuclear-loaded B-52s, were placed on high alert, the Soviets blinked, agreeing to dismantle the sites and ship their missiles back to Russia ... At times, Mr. Ambinder’s book reads like a Tom Clancy novel, as when Soviet Capt. Viktor Tkachenko, deep in an ICBM bunker, and 26-year-old U.S. Capt. Lee Trolan, in charge of a dozen nuclear weapons, are described handling the escalating tension. We watch Capt. Trolan guarding nuclear weapons with six men for every ten he should have had, working seven days a week. \'If you asked me then whether I thought we were going to have a shooting war with the Warsaw Pact . . . I would have said, yes.\' As for Capt. Tkachenko, he had heard rumors that \'the Americans would wait until the eve of a major Soviet holiday,\' when ordinary Soviets were relaxed and happy, \'to launch World War III.\' He returned again and again to the critical question: Is \'Able Archer 83\' a normal military exercise or the incomprehensible—preparations for a nuclear strike?
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalDrawing on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and first-time interviews with national-security experts, Taylor Downing ... speculates that, in the end, Andropov and the other Soviet leaders, conscious of the terrible loss of Soviet life during World War II, \'did not want to push the nuclear button unless they absolutely had to\' ... We can say with certainty, thanks to Mr. Downing...that both Soviet and American intelligence got it wrong—the Soviets displaying a scary degree of paranoia and the Americans unable to accept the truth of their paranoia ... In any case...[Mr. Downing should] be congratulated for a splendid job of research about a critical event in the Cold War that other historians have overlooked or underplayed.
Alvin S. Felzenberg
RaveThe Wall Street JournalA Man and His Presidents, deeply researched and smoothly written, is a superb political biography ... The most entertaining chapter of A Man and His Presidents is 'Demand a Recount,' the story of Buckley’s quixotic campaign for mayor of New York ... In his 82 years, concludes Mr. Felzenberg in this fresh account of a much-chronicled figure, Buckley achieved a great deal of what he set out to do, leaving behind a movement that continues to make a profound difference in our politics.