On Thermonuclear War

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Transaction Publishers, 2007 - Political Science - 668 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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Contents

Alternative National Strategies
3
r+
13
Will the Survivors Envy the Dead?
40
Seven Optimistic Assumptions
84
Neither Oblivion nor Surrender
96
Early Attack
111
Conflicting Objectives IV
119
Group Choices
120
Long War Capabilities
277
Nonmilitary Deterrents
285
Military Deterrents
287
Bargaining Ability
290
Implications for Study and Analysis
295
Other Important Concepts
305
LECTURE III
306
The Role of Analysis
311

Contingency Planning
123
Peacetime Objectives of a Strategic Force
127
Desirable Characteristics of a Deterrent
146
Wartime Objectives
164
Wartime Objectives of Defender
179
Flexible War Plans for Defender
184
Stresses and Strains
190
Could the Missile Gap Have Been Dangerous?
194
Four Typical Caveats
196
U S Must Convince S U That
218
The Arms Controllers View of War
227
Areas for Arms Control
234
Some Problems of Arms Control
244
VI Additional Remarks on the Military Problems
256
Reactions to Warning
258
Problems of Mobile Systems
265
Effectiveness of Aimed and Area Attacks
268
To Protect All Deterrent Forces
273
To Protect the United States
275
On the Analytic Approach to Defense Problems
326
The German Air Defense Analysis
329
Why Dont We Care?
332
19
346
VIII The Real Past
350
IX The Hypothetical Past
417
Technology 1961
453
Union
502
Comparison of Select Capital and Consumer Goods
508
PART II
542
Introduction
578
H Proposal for a War Damage Equalization Corporation
597
Comparison of Insurance Rates on Residential Houses
609
Simplified Analysis of the Value of Protective Construction
623
Index
653
354
654
112
657
489
662
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Herman Kahn (1922-1983) was a renowned political scientist, economist, historian geo-strategist, and considered by many to be the founder of futurology as serious field of study. Associated for many years with the RAND Corporation, he was the founding director of the first independent ""think tank,"" the Hudson Institute. Among his many books are Thinking About the Unthinkable, On Escalation, The Year 2000, The Next 200 Years, The Coming Boom, and The Resourceful Earth. Evan Jones is Herman Kahn's nephew. He is an historical analyst and game designer specializing in strategic simulations. He worked at the Hudson Institute in the mid-70s, primarily doing research used in The Next 200 Years.

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