Command and Control

Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser

Penguin, 2014, 656 pages


This is a seriously scary book. If you slept comfortably at night thinking that America’s nuclear arsenal was safely protected by layer upon layer of foolproof safeguards, you will abandon that delusion after reading this book. A sorry chronicle of America’s progress through the nuclear age, backgrounded against the development of a potentially horrific incident in a Titan II silo in Arkansas, where a fuel leak caused by a dropped spanner escalated into a terrible explosion that killed one and injured many others. Had the warhead detonated, a large part of rural Arkansas would have been obliterated. Many other chilling incidents and accidents are recounted in less detail, building up a picture of a broken system where bureaucrats, politicians and the military fight for control of the weapons, where it’s not even certain that anyone in command will be left alive to launch the missiles in the event of a Russian nuclear strike,  where America’s nuclear policy has swung wildly between mutual obliteration and postulating a limited, survivable nuclear exchange, and where Dr Strangelove is not an idea from a screenwriter’s imagination, but a frighteningly real possibility. This is not an entertaining book, but it is enthralling and is backed up with meticulously researched facts. You will not feel better for having read it, but you will be much better-informed about the dangers of nuclear madness. Highly recommended.