The Second Nuclear Age Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics

Paul Bracken

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year

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 provocative and agenda-setting book, Paul Bracken of Yale University argues that we need to pay renewed attention to nuclear weapons and how their presence will transform the way crises develop and escalate. He draws on his years of experience analyzing defense strategy to make the case that the United States needs to start thinking seriously about these issues once again, especially as new countries acquire nuclear capabilities. He walks us through war-game scenarios that are all too realistic, to show how nuclear weapons are changing the calculus of power politics, and he offers an incisive tour 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.
Frank in its tone and farsighted in its analysis, The Second Nuclear Age is the essential guide to the new rules of international politics.


Praise for The Second Nuclear Age

"Bracken draws effectively on his considerable experience of military war games to illustrate the many ways a regional rivalry might play out in a 'nuclear context.'"—Bill Keller, The New York Times Book Review

"[Bracken] makes a convincing argument that nuclear strategy is likely to play a major role in geopolitics . . . The author presents detailed case studies on East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East to bolster his argument that the multipolar nuclear world is already changing the military strategies of regional powers in significant ways and to show that American national strategy—still focused on nonproliferation and lacking an understanding of the new nuclear dynamics—is lagging behind. His analysis of the role of nuclear weapons in the India-Pakistan rivalry is disturbing and illuminating . . . Mr. Bracken's view is a powerful one . . . This isn't a cheery book, but it is a valuable one. The questions Mr. Bracken raises about the sustainability of current American foreign policy thinking are particularly timely."—Walter Russell Mead, The Wall Street Journal

"Challenging the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, Paul Bracken argues that we have already entered a second nuclear weapons age—and that the United States needs to face that reality. His book is well worth reading."—Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, and author of Essence of Decision and Nuclear Terrorism

"Penetrating . . . Bracken is an example of why fresh and fearless thinking is required when considering the near-term future of geopolitics . . . Everyone interested in nuclear proliferation in the Middle East should read [this book]."—Robert D. Kaplan, Stratfor, author of The Revenge of Geography

"This is an important book, necessary reading for anyone looking to understand nuclear weapons and how they might be used, directly or indirectly, in future conflicts around the world. Paul Bracken is a rigorous critic, convincing and unsentimental in his discussion of the strategic and political context of the subject. This is no simplistic vision of Armageddon."—George Friedman, author of The Next 100 Years, CEO of Stratfor

"Paul Bracken has written an alarming and compelling wake-up call. He argues that as new countries acquire nuclear capabilities, the cold war rules of the road no longer apply and we ignore the complexities of today's environment at our peril. He provides an instructive history of how we got here and is practical and provocative in recommending possible solutions. Read this book. We should not wait for the first nuclear crisis of this century to start thinking about what to do differently."—Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"Put Paul Bracken in charge of our nuclear policy for the twenty-first century. The Second Nuclear Age is a superb analysis of why and how a continuation of our Cold War nuclear forces and doctrines will fail, and how we can make them safer and far more strategically useful."—R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence

"In this book—which could hardly be more timely—Paul Bracken dissects the dangerous and often neglected realities of ‘the second nuclear age' and argues for bold, innovative, and often provocative ways to think about how to avert those dangers. Precisely because he challenges orthodox doctrines and practices and argues forcefully for his own strong views, he helps ensure that one of the most important, complex, and controversial issues of our time will get the hard-headed attention it deserves."—Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former U.S. deputy secretary of state

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• 1 •
War games have been used for a long time to discover and test strategies. The U.S. Navy gamed out the war against Japan for twenty years before Pearl Harbor. Reflecting on this afterward, Chester W. Nimitz,...

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  • Paul Bracken

  • Paul Bracken is the author of Fire in the East and The Command and Control of Nuclear Forces. He is a professor of management and political science at Yale University, and was previously a member of the senior staff of the Hudson Institute under Herman Kahn and a consultant to the Rand Corporation. He serves on several Department of Defense advisory boards and works with global multinational corporations on strategy and technology issues. He lives in Connecticut.

  • Paul Bracken Ric Daunis