From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Martin J. Sherwin comes the first effort to set the Cuban Missile Crisis, with its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War--how such a crisis arose, and why at the very last possible moment it didn't happen.
... well-researched and reasoned ... The book should become the definitive account of its subject ... Since the October 1962 near miss of a holocaust, most global leaders have prioritized arms control to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. Gambling With Armageddon is a useful reminder to their successors to continue the effort.
Martin Sherwin provides fresh insights both [the Cuban missile crisis] and on the larger themes of war and society raised by MacMillan. Sherwin’s Gambling with Armageddon is actually two books in one. At heart, it is a revisionist retelling of the deliberations within the executive committee (ExComm) of the National Security Council, the select body established by President John F. Kennedy on October 16, 1962, to devise a muscular response to the Soviet deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba ... As Sherwin persuasively demonstrates, however, those supposedly sagacious men were largely in the dark as to what was happening in Cuba and repeatedly lurched toward a catastrophe-inviting invasion. In addition to this revelatory narrative, Sherwin provides a second valuable book on the evolution of elite US thinking on the use of nuclear weapons from 1945 to the outbreak of the missile crisis. Although largely intended as a prelude to the events of 1962, this richly annotated section helps us comprehend the ideas and emotions that enabled the members of ExComm to seriously contemplate the use of hideously destructive weapons ... If there is one aspect of Sherwin’s...rich and evocative analyses that is open to criticism, it is...failure to delve deeply into the relationship between gender and conflict ... it is hard not to come away with the impression that lurking under the more conventional explanations for acts of war—nationalism, territorial expansion, monarchical rivalry, and so on—lie the purportedly masculine traits of combativeness and self-aggrandizement that these men (and nearly everyone making these decisions were men) felt they had to embody.
The author provides a more detailed backstory to the crisis than any previous history ... The book also offers some surprising revelations ... This engrossing book should make everyone who reads it and was born after October 1962 extremely thankful to be alive, because if one or two key decisions by ordinary people or important leaders had been different, they very well might not be here.