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In This Review

Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years

Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years
By McGeorge Bundy
Random House, 1988, 735 pp. $24.95 Purchase

"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." The words are Ronald Reagan's. While McGeorge Bundy, like many others, finds Reagan's thinking about nuclear weapons muddy and his administration's public presentation of nuclear reality disgraceful, this particular sentence is crystal clear. It echoes the conclusion of the only person ever to authorize a nuclear strike, Harry Truman: "Starting an atomic war is totally unthinkable for rational men."

These sentences reflect the central message of Bundy's magisterial history of decisions during mankind's half-century of living with atomic fire. The message is deceptively simple: since 1945 no nation has ever come close to using a nuclear weapon, not even the United States during what is now too often remembered as a golden age of nuclear monopoly, followed by a period of superiority.

From the start of the nuclear age, Bundy argues, any superpower crisis that involved the "scent of burning"

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