...revealed with bracing clarity ... [a] rich and surprisingly entertaining history of how nuclear weapons have shaped the United States military and the country’s foreign policy ... In less skillful hands, this could be a slog. But Kaplan has a gift for elucidating abstract concepts, cutting through national security jargon and showing how leaders confront (or avoid) dilemmas.
Pick up Fred Kaplan’s The Bomb with caution, and as a cautionary tale. The caution is required because of the fear this book will relieve. The cautionary tale is the effect this book should have ... It is astonishing today to learn how much planning went into first strike options, how gratuitously Chinese targets were included in Pentagon plans to react to a crisis in Berlin, how quickly escalation of a military confrontation could reach a critical stage ... By the end of The Bomb the reader will be glad we are all around to discuss this history, which Kaplan put together with newly available documents. The reader also will say that we are damn lucky the nuclear genie remains in its fragile bottle.
In The Bomb, his excellent history of nuclear war and its long shadow, Fred Kaplan...uses more recently released classified documents to focus on the actual policymakers, describing with lucidity and a healthy dose of dark irony their trips down the rabbit hole ... Kaplan’s book is a timely reminder of the need to take a deep breath before thinking the unthinkable.