The top seller on Amazon for books devoted to war and peace as of this writing, Scott Horton’s newest offering, Hotter than the Sun: Time to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, is a timely must read. As Washington barrels heedlessly along into Cold War II, the American public badly needs educating on the current risks, past close calls, and the utter insanity of an entire for-profit industry built on the flawed concept of thousands of thermonuclear bombs as “weapons” that keep us safe.
With major papers like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times now regularly running pieces arguing everything from the need to show the Russians we aren’t afraid to fight a nuclear war—that we can even “win” one—to the idea that a “small” nuclear war can help mitigate climate change, Scott’s book is a vital weapon in the hands of the sane, convincingly making the case that it really is time to get rid of the thousands of nuclear and thermonuclear bombs in existence.
Because the truth about thousands of nuclear and thermonuclear bombs, the overwhelming majority of which are possessed by the United States and Russia, is immutable. Just as Ronald Reagan said forty years ago, a nuclear war cannot be won and can never be fought.
And forget even about launching a life-ending nuclear exchange on purpose, as Hotter than the Sun notes there have been plenty of accidents that could have resulted in exactly the same outcome. From the Air Force accidentally dropping a nuke over North Carolina to absent-minded technicians dropping wrenches down armed missile silos, careless scientists playing with plutonium rods to the Norwegians launching a satellite, the game theoretical strategic calculations that form the basis of US and Russian nuclear postures mean that an apparent threat or actual detonation on their soil would mean an almost immediate escalation to a full-on nuclear exchange.
Apart from documenting such accidents that nearly resulted in the deaths of potentially millions or billions of people, if not every single one of us, over the course of the ensuing nuclear winter, the book revisits past insanities. From the decision to test the first bomb, despite its creators’ real concerns that it would immediately ignite atmosphere and oceans, instantly killing everyone on earth, to only deciding to drop the first bombs on Japan in order to justify their expense, ensure continued funding for making more, and intimidating the Soviets, Scott’s book takes the reader right up to the present day, where Washington, having started an unnecessary new arms race by unilaterally ripping up important arms control agreements in the name of pursuing a first-strike capability and enriching Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman execs, is now in full panic mode because it is apparently losing.
But it is important to note, as Scott does, that “losing” in Washington’s mind is not being able to potentially threaten with virtual impunity anyone it wants: that is hardly a concern most American voters express, if any.
Important as the topic of nuclear arms is, the over fifteen thousand nuclear and thermonuclear bombs in existence being the number one short-term threat to humanity’s continued existence, Scott’s title frankly sells the book’s contents rather short. At over four hundred pages, consisting of several dozen interviews conducted over a period of nearly two decades, Hotter than the Sun is a critical primer on everything from diplomatic history to U.S. Middle East policy to the military-industrial complex, corporate lobbying, and a range of other issues.
From corporate lobbying for North Atlantic Treaty Organization expansion to Israeli misinformation about the fake Iranian nuclear threat to how the decision to invade Iraq was made to why any random Pakistani colonel on the border with India could end all life on earth, Scott and his guests never fail to inform, surprise, disgust, and alarm, with Washington’s misguided, corporatist, imperialist, or just plain idiotic policies usually at or near the root of virtually every serious problem facing humanity today.
Featuring interviews with Daniel Ellsberg, Seymour Hersh, Gar Alperovitz, Chas Freeman, Ray McGovern, Doug Bandow, and many others, Hotter than the Sun is a book worthy of your time and money. And this at a moment when any trip to your local bookstore or Barnes and Noble outlet is sure to leave you much poorer and much more badly informed about the world than you otherwise would have been had you not bought anything to read at all.
This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.