Friday, April 17, 2009
On Thermonuclear War - Herman Kahn
Yesterday, it was imaginary mice in space (well, they never actually made it to space... but you'll have to read the book yourself to find out exactly what happened). Today, it's a heavy-duty, philosophical treatise on dealing with the newest technology available. This book was published in 1960, during the Cold War when at least two superpowers had access to unthinkably destructive weaponry. (Of course, the lectures in this book certainly pertain to today's situation with MORE countries able to push a button and start a holocaust like none seen before).
Many people during the 1960's thought -- OK, we HAVE this weapon that can annihilate the world, so we WON'T EVER USE IT -- since we know what it would do. BUT, the sad fact was (and is) that NO weapon has ever been devised that hasn't sooner or later been used during wartime situations.
SO, Herman Kahn, knowing that the US was treading into new territory, wrote a series of lectures / briefs wherein he postulates some hard facts about peoples, wars and weapons. He explains HOW people thought during wartime (using specific historical examples), he postulates what MIGHT happen, and he forges plans / contingencies for what COULD happen if this weapon was to be used.
Heavy-Duty stuff. NECESSARY stuff.
Unfortunately, Herman Kahn took a beating (figuratively speaking) for writing this book -- he was labeled a Bomb happy guy who WANTED the US to use this weapon when in actuality, he was very much against it's use.
There is definite historical value to the book -- placing ideology and thought of the 1960's into perspective and dealing with a topic that STILL scares people silly.
There is also a value in reading this book today to remind those in charge just what could happen if they forget history.