In This Review

An Elusive Consensus: Nuclear Weapons and American Security After the Cold War
An Elusive Consensus: Nuclear Weapons and American Security After the Cold War
By Janne E. Nolan
Brookings Institution Press, 1999, 139 pp
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Nolan still cares about America's nuclear stockpile. Her story starts with dramatic changes in the U.S. arsenal, both negotiated and unilateral, accomplished by the Bush administration. Yet that much-reduced arsenal was still in Cold War readiness for a prompt launch against thousands of Russian targets. Clinton then appointed some of the arsenal's most knowledgeable critics to lead the Defense Department in 1993. As Clinton's second term ends, Nolan concludes that his nuclear policy has been "unfortunately a story of missed opportunities." The president's role in directing nuclear policies has been "negligible," in sharp contrast with Bush's record. In a dry and understated style, Nolan shows how the policy review was smothered and illuminates the debates about the uses of nuclear weapons against "rogue" states. She attends to the arguments on both sides and presents them fairly -- something unusual for this field. In the end, the top Pentagon brass (principally William Perry and John Deutch), like their president, simply had bigger fish to fry. Nolan finds this unfortunate, and her book reminds readers how many troubling issues remain as America tries to devise a truly post-Cold War nuclear posture.