AUTHORKahn, Herman
TITLEThinking About the Unthinkable in the 1980s
PUBLISHERSimon & Schuster
CITYNew York, NY

This book grapples with realities of a potential nuclear war in the 1980s, providing policy advice in the advent of that unthinkable occurrence. A prominent U.S. nuclear strategist during the Cold War, the author Herman Kahn asserts that in the face of such war, the U.S. should strive for persistent nuclear deterrence informed by U.S. security interests and increased safety by way of minimizing consequences should nuclear war occur. In four parts, the book uses probability and strategic theory to consider how best to pursue those goals. Part I provides an overview of what nuclear war is and the global context that makes it possible, mainly with respect to the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Part II considers how nuclear warfare differs from conventional warfare, the concept of deterrence, and several scenarios depicting the outbreak of nuclear war. Part III investigates problems with U.S. defenses in nuclear war, such as mobilization of weapons, civil defense, and arms control. Part IV outlines strategies to help develop a safer world in the face of the threat of nuclear war. An appendix contains a series of outlines of lectures given by the author on central nuclear war issues. The book was published posthumously, having been completed by the author’s colleague and editor after Kahn’s death in 1983. Kahn wrote several controversial books including On Thermonuclear War (1960) and Thinking About the Unthinkable (1962).

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