The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics
Overview: The cold war ended more than two decades ago, and with its end came a reduction in the threat of nuclear weapons―a
luxury that we can no longer indulge. It's not just the threat of Iran getting the bomb or North Korea doing something rash; the whole
complexion of global power politics is changing because of the reemergence of nuclear weapons as a vital element of statecraft and power
politics. In short, we have entered the second nuclear age.
In this book, Paul Bracken of Yale University argues that the US needs to pay renewed attention to nuclear weapons and how their presence will
transform the way crises develop and escalate. He walks the reader through realistic war-game scenarios to show how nuclear weapons are changing
the calculus of power politics. Further, he offers a review of the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia to underscore how the United States must
not allow itself to be unprepared for managing such crises.
In Part One: Enduring Truths, Bracken explores the reality that we live in a nuclear era and therefore it is essential to be on guard against
indifference to the dangers of nuclear conflict, especially while Atomic weapons have returned for a second act. Bracken's position is that the
most probable future nuclear antagonism is one between the United States and China. How did nuclear weapons change the dynamic between the world’s
powers? Are there any redeeming features in nuclear weapons? How can nuclear weapons stabilize relations between nations? How can they destabilize
relations? How does politics influence national security? What are the lessons of the First Nuclear Age?
In Part Two: The New Power Politics, Bracken examines the important question of why there is uncertainty in the United States over the future of
the U.S. nuclear arsenal and nuclear strategy. He suggests that nuclear issues have appeared to have gone because it has been banished into
military operations; or allowed itself to become a part of the disarmament debate. Nuclear security now exist in a multipolar order where the
weapons are integral to foreign and defense policy in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. What is the current U.S. nuclear position?
How might the US be deceived by other nation’s nuclear intents, as it was with India? Do you believe the US position is based upon fact
(will the US execute) or is it what the US want others to believe? What are the pros and cons of nuclear proliferation (if it has helped some,
why not all)?
In Part Three: The Way Forward, Bracken contends that unpopular though nuclear forces
and strategy are too many people today, there is a clear need for strategic missions
for U.S. and allied forces in the Second Nuclear age. This makes sense considering a
nuclear hedge against the degradation or outright failure of conventional fighting power.
One reason to be optimistic about the future is, as Bracken proposes, the major nuclear
powers have mostly succeeded in stabilizing their own nuclear rivalries and share a common
interest in global nuclear containment. What can we learn from the Barksdale incident and nuclear
weapons management? What is the Fifty-Year Problem? How might the US deal with it? Do we need to
look at strategic missions from another perspective? How does strategic missions relate to the basic
nuclear problem? Does all this make sense to you? In what way? Does what you say follow from the evidence?