By Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
Herman Kahn was once the single nuclear strategist in the US who may have made a residing as a standup comic. certainly, galumphing round phases around the nation, joking his method via one ugly thermonuclear situation after one other, he got here frighteningly shut. In telling the tale of Herman Kahn, whose 1960 e-book On Thermonuclear struggle catapulted him into superstar, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi captures an period that continues to be greatly with us--a time whose innocence, grotesque nuclear humor, and outrageous yet lethal critical visions of annihilation have their echoes within the "known unknowns and unknown unknowns" that consultant policymakers in our personal embattled world.
Portraying a lifestyles that mixed elements of Lenny Bruce, Hitchcock, and Kubrick, Ghamari-Tabrizi provides now not one Herman Kahn, yet many--one who spoke the suffocatingly dry argot of the nuclear specialists, one other whose buffoonery conveyed the creative absurdity of all of it, and numerous others who capered ahead of the general public, ambiguous, baffling, continually open to interpretation. This, then, is a narrative of 1 completely unusual and alluring guy in addition to a cultural historical past of our second. In Herman Kahn's international is a serious lesson approximately how chilly battle analysts realized to fill within the ciphers of strategic uncertainty, and therefore how we as a country discovered to dwell with the mainly artistic caliber of approach, during which uncertainty generates extravagant hazard scenarios.
Revealing the metaphysical in the back of the dryly planned, it seems that sensible dialogue of nuclear procedure, this e-book depicts the production of a global the place shrewdpermanent males model whatever out of Nothing--and establishes Herman Kahn as our first virtuoso of the unknown unknowns.
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Extra info for The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War
Reliability of a [computer] in a . . distant country. ”57 Computers were not the only villains in the push-button war scenario. “A nervous, psychotic or fanatical launch officer [could] trigger . . an accidental war almost as easily as a high school boy can smash a revolver cartridge with a hammer,” warned Carl Dreher in The Nation in 1958. The fantasy of psychotic SAC officers had first been outlined by the Russian Army journal Red Star the year before. A piece aimed at Great Britain suggested that an overwrought American based in England could order a bomber to obliterate Moscow.
39 fabricated units at the National Housing Agency right after the war. It was but a small step from whizzing past the Quonset hut villages of 1940s LA to assuming that Americans would adapt to underground dormitories and strongholds shuttered by sandbags and protective shielding. All around him neighborhoods were being hoisted and screwed together; houses and apartment buildings were torn down to make way for supermarkets cocooned in acres of parking space. 67 Whole neighborhoods were razed for the expressways of the automobile city.
For his part, Russell offered the pagan restoratives of “dewy mornings and 30 THE WORLDS OF HERMAN KAHN summer evenings and the sea and the stars . . ”45 But above all else, there was God. Millions of readers gobbled up The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. Legislators slipped “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance and printed “In God We Trust” on postage stamps. While Billy Graham churned up fear and hope, nonevangelical religions were peculiarly elated. A reporter explained the mood.