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January 20, 2003

The Gift of Time

I finished The Gift of Time this evening. Jonathan Schell is not as compelling a read as I remember from Fate of the Earth, but then it's been decades since he wrote that, and I guess you get a little stale honking the horn for all those years.

When the book comes alive, it is during the interviews he conducts with figures close to the Cold War and the vicious circle of mutual assured destruction. His interview with Robert Mcnamara prompted me to get the book Blundering Into Disaster: Surviving the First Century of the Nuclear Age, which is next in my queue. I'm grateful I didn't keep track of all the books mentioned, or I'd be snowed under for the next year.

Instead of outlining the main ideas covered in the book, I'll simply urge anyone interested in the topic of nuclear abolition to get this book. Struggle through the prefatory material, but stay for the interviews, as many of them are quite stirring.

Finally, I want to quote one passage by Jonathan Schell himself, not directly on the topic of nuclear abolition, but rather on the end of the Cold War. It struck me because it illustrates a more nuanced view than the usual "we spent Russia into bankruptcy" view I've heard more than once:

"While some doves imagine that they reversed the arms race by their own efforts, some hawks imagine that they 'won' the Cold War. In truth, it was chiefly the peoples of the East who, through their efforts in their own countries, won the main victory -- in consequence of which the Cold War disappeared."

Posted by dpwakefield at January 20, 2003 09:01 PM