Reviews for Dead Hand : The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy
Booklist Reviews 2009 October #1
"A journalist associated with the Washington Post, Hoffman meticulously researched the Soviet Union's strategic-weapons posture in the 1980s and the armaments legacy the USSR bequeathed to Russia in the early 1990s. This narrative of his findings proceeds chronologically, from a hair-raising account of the Soviet leadership's genuine, if paranoid, fear that the U.S. might launch a nuclear attack in the fall of 1983, to American efforts to secure nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the chaotic years following the disintegration of the USSR. Hoffman's many revelations, arising from his interviews with designers or custodians of Soviet weapons, include description of a system that could launch nuclear missiles by itself if the Soviet leadership were killed in a U.S. first strike; fine-grained detail of the Soviet Union's secret and illegal biological-weapons production; and discussion of Soviet-era accidents, such as a 1979 anthrax outbreak. Revealing Ronald Reagan's and Mikhail Gorbachev's attitudes toward and meetings about strategic weapons, Hoffman's thorough history of this phase in arms control should pique those interested in the policies and technicalities of reducing strategic weapons." Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #1
Stanley Kubrick got it wrong in Dr. Strangelove: There was a Doomsday Machine, but it was in the other bunker.So we learn in this penetrating look at the history of the Cold War and its many curious assumptions, specifically the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, bearing the apt acronym MAD, courtesy of the late Robert McNamara. One of its offshoots was the notion that the Soviet military created "Dead Hand," a missile system that led to further assumptions that the civilian leadership and military command system were dead and gone. The Soviet brass, writes Washington Post reporter Hoffman (The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, 2002), worried that human operators might have pangs of conscience and tried to push through a computer-loop design by which the machines would decide when to unleash hell without human intervention. Fortunately, more sensible heads prevailed--but not without a fight. One of the many virtues of Hoffman's book is that it depicts not just the death-tainted hand of the military-industrial complex in the United States, but also in the Soviet Union, where supposed strongmen like Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov had considerable trouble keeping the warmongers under control. Despite diplomatic agreements and good assurances, the Russian city of Sverdlovsk pumped out anthrax spores as "the Soviet Union promptly betrayed its signature on the [arms control] treaty." Indeed, readers will realize how lucky we are to have escaped being destroyed at their hands. Yet, Hoffman notes, even today, "in a remote compound near the town of Shchuchye in western Siberia, there are still 1.9 million projectiles filled with 5,447 metric tons of nerve agents."A compendium of discomfiting, implication-heavy facts, of particular interest to students of geopolitics.Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2009 June #1
Hoffman considers not just how the Cold War ended but how dangerous the Soviet Union's dissolution was, as nuclear and biological weapons floated about unattended. Scarier-sounding than some spy thril-lers and probably better written. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.