Tales Of The Cold War

April 5th, 2006  

Topic: Tales Of The Cold War

I don't know if anyone has read this book yet, but here is a great synopsis by a Times literary reviewer. This carries you through the cold war years through some of the problems of today. Explains how the USSR failed even though they had higher production rates and more natural resources than Europe or the US. This is a long read but it kept my attention rivited to the whole article because I learned more whys and hows that I never knew. Also you will find out why the nuclear programs never seemed to stop even though there were enough to destroy the earth. I can't say enough about the book and I'm now looking for the best deal on it.

John Lewis Gaddis
333pp. Penguin. 20.
0 713 99912 8


As peace-keepers, nuclear weapons had four great merits. First, their destructive capacity exceeded the culminating level of military utility. In accordance with the paradoxical logic of strategy, they were just too effective to be useful, except for reciprocal dissuasion. Second, all attempts to rehabilitate nuclear weapons for battlefield use by reducing their energy yield were negated by the ease with which any resulting tactical gains could be negated by counter-attacks with weapons of slightly higher yield. Third, that same ease of escalation also dissuaded non-nuclear combat between the nuclear powers, because of its ultimate futility: any results won without them could readily be overturned by nuclear weapons. Finally, nuclear weapons prohibited the optimism without which few wars have ever been started. If they were used, outcomes only remained unpredictable at the margins, while it was entirely certain that there would be catastrophic consequences. That unprecedented certainty induced unprecedented caution on the part of everyone concerned, even Stalin and Mao, monsters in human form who calmly encompassed the deaths of millions and tens of millions of their fellow citizens, but who behaved as cautiously as ordinary political leaders of middling sensuality when it came to nuclear weapons.

On The Failure Of The Soviet Consumer Planning System:

One explanation, originally offered as a theoretical proposition even before Soviet central planning had really started, was that central planners who might choose more or less rationally among steel and concrete and other such few commodities, could not possibly guess accurately which polymer of hundreds should be produced, or rather which polymers in which proportion, and also everything else, from computers to green hats and brown shoes (I really did once see in Leningrad a shop largely stocked with unwanted green shoes). Only the ups and downs of market prices can do that, by sending instantaneous and unchallengeable signals to both producers and consumers.