Jerry Delaney at The American Scholar:
In his book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser reveals that worst-case scenarios have come harrowingly close to coming true on a number of occasions—yet the American public has never been adequately informed.
So the question that continues to haunt me is, Why would a generation of presidents, supported by responsible men like William Perry, engage in a nuclear poker game that no sane gambler would in good conscience play? Why on earth wouldn’t both sides calculate the worst-case scenario and elect not to play the game?
On some nights during the Cold War, I lay awake turning over that question. The only plausible answer I was able to imagine is that they, the two governments, couldn’t help it. They had no choice, or thought they had no choice: the nuclear genie was out of the bottle and both sides seized on deterrence as an existential necessity. But was it?