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The study of nuclear weapons is dominated by a single theory - that of the nuclear revolution, or mutual assured destruction (MAD). Although such theorists largely perceive nuclear competition as irrational and destined for eventual stalemate, the nuclear arms race between superpowers during the second half of the Cold War is a glaring anomaly that flies in the face of this logic. In this detailed historical account, Brendan Green presents an alternate theoretical explanation for how the United States navigated nuclear stalemate during the Cold War. Motivated by the theoretical and empirical puzzles of the Cold War arms race, Green explores the technological, perceptual, and 'constitutional fitness' incentives that were the driving forces behind US nuclear competition. Green hypothesizes that states can gain peacetime benefits from effective nuclear competition, reducing the risk of crises, bolstering alliance cohesion, and more. He concludes that the lessons of the Cold War arms race remain relevant today: they will influence the coming era of great power competition and could potentially lead to an upsurge in future US government nuclear competition.Read more
- Unites political science with deep historical analysis, showing how general theories can be used to interpret and understand unique historical events
- Introduces theories in ordinary language, making theoretical arguments accessible to readers without formal training in international relations
- Shows how the argument can be applied to the major issues of the day
Reviews & endorsements
‘The nuclear weapons competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was a key driver in the Cold War; but how well do we understand this dynamic? The Revolution That Failed offers a powerful and convincing challenge to the long-held status quo view regarding the causes of nuclear competition. Based on deep research in primary materials, Green brilliantly demonstrates the efforts by the United States to seek nuclear advantage. This study overturns much of what we thought we knew about the politics of arms control, with profound consequences for how we understand our nuclear dilemmas. It promises to become the standard work on this crucial subject.' Francis J. Gavin, Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins UniversitySee more reviews
‘The Revolution that Failed presents a sophisticated and compelling challenge to the widely held belief that nuclear weapons revolutionized international politics. Anyone interested in understanding the incentives that drove the arms race during the Cold War should read this book.' John J. Mearsheimer, Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago
‘With sophisticated theorizing and painstaking research, Green shows that, during the Cold War, American leaders did not accept the dogma of Mutual Assured Destruction. Instead, they sought weapons that could be used to out compete the USSR and produce the best possible military outcome in the event of war. This is a major achievement that alters our understanding of the Soviet-American interaction and the role of nuclear weapons.' Robert Jervis, author of The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution and How Statesmen Think
‘This brilliant book combines new theoretical perspectives and empirical insights to explain nuclear competition between the superpowers during the late Cold War.’ Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Journal of Peace Research
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- Date Published: April 2020
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781108489867
- length: 290 pages
- dimensions: 235 x 158 x 22 mm
- weight: 0.53kg
- contains: 1 b/w illus. 4 tables
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
Introduction: a revolution, or what?
1. The nuclear revolution revisited
2. The delicacy of the nuclear balance
3. Comparative constitutional fitness
4. Testing the argument against its competitors
5. Nixon and the origins of renewed nuclear competition, 1969–1971
6. Nixon, Ford, and accelerating nuclear competition, 1971–1976
7. The rise of nuclear warfighting, 1972–1976
8. Carter and the climax of the arms race, 1977–1979
9. The revolution that failed.
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