On Thermonuclear War

Front Cover
Routledge, Jul 12, 2017 - History - 690 pages

On Thermonuclear War was controversial when originally published and remains so today. It is iconoclastic, crosses disciplinary boundaries, and finally it is calm and compellingly reasonable. The book was widely read on both sides of the Iron Curtain and the result was serious revision in both Western and Soviet strategy and doctrine. As a result, both sides were better able to avoid disaster during the Cold War.

The strategic concepts still apply: defense, local animosities, and the usual balance-of-power issues are still very much with us. Kahn's stated purpose in writing this book was simply: "avoiding disaster and buying time, without specifying the use of this time." By the late 1950s, with both sides H-bomb-armed, reason and time were in short supply.

Kahn, a military analyst at Rand since 1948, understood that a defense based only on thermonuclear arnaments was inconceivable, morally questionable, and not credible.The book was the first to make sense of nuclear weapons. Originally created from a series of lectures, it provides insight into how policymakers consider such issues. One may agree with Kahn or disagree with him on specific issues, but he clearly defined the terrain of the argument. He also looks at other weapons of mass destruction such as biological and chemical, and the history of their use.

The Cold War is over, but the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and the lessons and principles developed in On Thermonuclear War apply as much to today's China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as they did to the Soviets.


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Introduction to the Transaction Edition
Alternative National Strategies
Will the Survivors Envy the Dead?
Genetic Assumptions
Radioactive Environment 100 Years Later
Military Deterrents
Bargaining Ability
Implications for Study and Analysis
Other Important Concepts
The Role of Analysis
On the Analytic Approach to Defense Problems

The Strontium90 Problem
Carbon14 Problem
The Wealth of the United States
Estimated Production Capacity Surviving Destruction of 53
Recuperation with InvestmentOriented Policy
Neither Oblivion Nor Surrender
Feasible Air Defense Contributions to Nonmilitary Defense
Morbidity of Acute Total Rody Radiation 23 Fraction of Country Covered by Various Doses in One Early Attack
Fraction of Country Covered by Various Doses in One Late Attack
Early Attack against SAC and First 50 Urban Areas Late Attack against SAC and 157 Urban Areas
Conflicting Objectives
Group Choices 27 Contingency Planning
Peacetime Objectives of a Strategic Force
Desirable Characteristics of a Deterrent
Wartime Objectives
Wartime Objectives of Defender
Flexible War Plans for Defender
Stresses and Strains
Eight Basic Situations
Could the Missile Gap Have Been Dangerous?
Four Typical Caveats
U S Must Convince S U That
The Arms Controllers View of
Areas for Arms Control
Some Problems of Arms Control
Additional Remarks on the Military Problems
Reactions to Warning
Problems of Mobile Systems
Effectiveness of Aimed and Area Attacks
To Protect All Deterrent Forces
To Protect the United States
LongWar Capabilities
Nonmilitary Deterrents
The German Air Defense Analysis
Why Don tWe Care? 55 Government Committee
The Problem of Security
The Real Past
Some World War I Innovations 58 Measure and Countermeasure
Attrition of Vl by Active Defense
Timing and Coordination Problems of Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
The Hypothetical Past
Technology 1951
Technology 1956
Technology 1961
Probability of Survival versus Yield of Missile Warhead
Technology 1965
Technology 1969
A Comparison of the Growth of China and the Early Soviet
Thirteen Years of Progress
A Comparison of the Estimated Growth of the Soviet
A Possible 1975 Military Posture for U S or S
An Adequate Civil Defense Program
Historical Prototypes
The Conflicting Objectives
Comparison of Insurance Rates on Residential Houses of Selected Towns in California
Premiums of Life and Fire Insurance 1955
Comparison of Manual Rates of Workmens Compensation 4 Distribution of Liability by Classes
Geographical Distribution of Policies
The Special Importance of Installations

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