The Doomsday Machine Book Summary By Daniel Ellsberg

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The Doomsday Machine (2017) is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of nuclear weapons.

It chronicles expert whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg's journey from learning about the power of bombs to rewriting national security policy.

Through his eyes, readers will gain an understanding of how nuclear systems have been used throughout history and just how close we came to facing total destruction of the human race.

This riveting tale will leave you questioning your views on power, civil obedience, and humanity throughout its pages, as it paints a vivid picture of what could happen if we don't keep a firm grip on everything atomic-related.

Don't miss out - pick up a copy today!

The Doomsday Machine Book

Book Name: The Doomsday Machine (Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner)

Author(s): Daniel Ellsberg

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

The author of The Doomsday Machine is none other than Daniel Ellsberg.

He's an activist, whistleblower and former United States military advisor who made headlines in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers to the public – documents that revealed details about US efforts during the Vietnam War.

After this, he wrote Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers about his experience.

Now, his latest work is The Doomsday Machine – a book that takes a look at how governments are able to use technology to build weapons that can destroy life on an unprecedented scale.

It's an eye-opening read that sheds light on some uncomfortable truths and those looking to learn more should definitely give this one a read.

What You’ll Learn From A Former Us Military Analyst About The True Structure Of The Nuclear System And Its Potential Impact On Humanity

Nuclear System

From the inside perspective of a former US military analyst, The Doomsday Machine reveals the shocking truth about nuclear bombing.

It exposes how vulnerable our world actually is to complete annihilation, and shows that the much-believed notion of a president having full control with his nuclear football is far from the reality.

In this must-read book, you’ll uncover what deterrence strategy is in place and why politicians still support nuclear warfare despite its destructive power.

This book will help equip you with knowledge that could be necessary to spread awareness and take action in order to prevent any possible catastrophe caused by nuclear warfare wiping out humanity.

The Arms Race Of The 1930S Led To Strategic Bombing And The Threat Of Nuclear War

The first mass murder of innocent civilians in war took place during the 1930s.

This change can be attributed to advancements in aircraft technology during this era.

For the first time, planes were able to carry heavier cargos and go much further distances than ever before, enabling large scale attacks against civilian populations.

One infamous example is Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica, which captures the Italian and German aerial bombings of a Spainish city that took the lives of 1,000 innocent civilians.

Soon after, WWII started and President Roosevelt urged Germany and other countries not to bomb city centers; yet his request was quickly dismissed and Britain initiated their own raids on German cities, killing some 40,000 people.

At its most devastating – though still non-nuclear – US bombings caused the death of around 100,000 Japanese civilians alone in 1945 following a single night raid against Tokyo.

With these moments, it’s clear the doomsday machine was constructed long before nuclear weapons entered global warfare: having all started with civilian-target airstrikes in the 1930s, paving way for an onslaught of man-made destruction.

The Horrifying Power Of Nuclear Weapons: How Daniel Ellsberg’S Early Experience With War Led Him To A Career Of Nuclear Deterrence

When Daniel Ellsberg was in ninth grade, his classroom studies provided an early preview of the fears and consequences that would follow when the world faced two unthinkable events: the horror of World War II and the Cold War that followed.

He observed Nazi bombing on film for the first time, witnessing civilian casualties on a massive scale.

Energized by what he saw and read, Ellsberg wrote a paper about atomic bombs and their potential danger to humanity in 1945.

Around this time, Leo Szilard had just demonstrated nuclear fission by splitting uranium atoms and showing its great discharges of energy – giving the Manhattan Project scientists all the more reason to develop such a weapon as soon as possible.

Driven by fear that Nazi Germany would gain access to nuclear technology if they did not complete their work first, these same scientists later continued this work through WWII and into the Cold War period.

During this time, Ellsberg too wanted to stop evil powers from obtaining such destructive weapons and became an activist for deterrence strategies like those being employed during the Cold War.

The Life-Or-Death Logic Of Deterrence: How Daniel Ellsberg Learned To Accept The Inevitability Of Mutually Assured Destruction

Daniel Ellsberg

When Daniel Ellsberg started working for the RAND Corporation in 1957, the world was in a particularly volatile state.

He was only 26 years old and yet responsible for helping to devise ways of defending against a possible nuclear attack from the USSR.

His work involved analyzingnuclear strategies that could potentially help avert a catastrophic event.

It wasn’t long before he understood how so-called “deterrence strategies” could be used to create an uneasy coexistence between the two Superpowers, preventing them from ever launching their weapons.

In October 1957, just four weeks after he began his new job, it became clear that the US had underestimated the power of the USSR’s early intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) when they successfully launched Sputnik into orbit.

This realization hit home with Ellsberg – it meant that any threat posed by nuclear war had become more real and tangible than ever before.

He quickly grasped how important deterrence strategies were in protecting humanity from such attacks, even if its success at maintaining nuclear stability really depended on which side blinked first in any conflict situation.

As we all now know, this line of thinking unfortunately did not, ultimately, prevent a full-blown nuclear disaster from happening.

The Realization That A Doomsday Scenario Could Be Closer Than He Thought Was Daniel Ellsberg’S Moment Of Crisis

When the author of The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg, delved into the control and command structures of US nuclear facilities, he was shocked to discover numerous flaws in the US nuclear strategy.

Fundamentally, Ellsberg found that the main priority was to launch weapons quickly enough to attack enemies rather than placing emphasis on avoiding false alarms.

Adding to this alarming finding, Ellsberg realized that there were no “STOP” commands to counteract preemptive strikes if given under a misunderstood situation.

This meant that once planes were en route with payloads onboard, the President himself could not call them back – creating a huge risk of error or mishandling in case someone gave wrong orders.

It was also alarming to find out that even a two-man system could be accessed by either person with ease – because such a system created too much risk of one officer falling ill or being unable to respond on time in case of surprise attacks.

Daniel Ellsberg’S Discovery Of Flaws In The Us Nuclear Command Structure Led To Lasting Reforms

When Daniel Ellsberg started looking into US nuclear command structure, he quickly realized how easy it was to authorize a nuclear attack.

This concerned him greatly and spurred him on to find solutions which would make the authorization process more difficult and secure.

So, he set out to create an improved basic national security policy to replace the flawed system in place.

He proposed three components – a no cities plan designed to deter Soviet retaliation; preserving US reserve forces in order to keep a leadership structure intact after a first strike; and adding the concept of a ‘STOP’ command which would enable termination of any attacks.

Amazingly, his suggestions were approved by the Kennedy administration in May 1961 and have since had major ramifications for US nuclear war strategies .

It goes without say that Ellsberg’s efforts to improve the system were well worth it.

The Doomsday Machine Reveals The Catastrophic Potential Of Nuclear War

Nuclear War

The cost of a first-strike scenario is more devastating than we could possibly imagine.

When Daniel Ellsberg, who was working at the RAND corporation in 1961, asked Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric how many people would die as a result of a US preemptive strike against the USSR and its allies, he was given a document labeled “For the president’s eyes only” – which estimated that 275 million people would perish within two hours of such an attack.

Even more alarmingly, if one also factored in possible Soviet backlash to such an attack, then the total death toll reaches 1 billion – or one third of the world’s population.

But what truly makes this first-strike scenario scarier than it already is is that it has potential consequences that were beyond the scope of 1961’s imagination.

That is, a nuclear winter – due to all of the smoke generated from firestorms produced by a first-strike scenario – would block out sunlight for about ten years and lead to massive famine, possibly killing off the remaining two thirds of humanity.

This makes it clear why this situation is referred to as “the doomsday machine”.

The Cuban Missile Crisis: How One Submarine Officer Avoided Nuclear War And Changed The Course Of History

In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of disaster.

With US naval forces blocking shipments of nuclear weapons to Cuba and Soviet submarines at their side, it seemed as if a fatal conflict was just a moment away.

President Kennedy and General Khrushchev negotiated a deal that avoided an all-out war, but only after moments of intense pressure – and only thanks to Vasili Arkhipov, a low ranking Soviet submarine officer who refused to follow the orders of his colleagues and launch an unauthorized nuclear attack even in the face of certain death or capture.

Thankfully for us all, Arkhipov was successful in convincing his fellow officers against starting a war – though it could easily have gone the other way had he not been so determined.

While Kennedy and Khrushchev were adamant about settling things peacefully, they likely would have decided in favor of retaining their current positions had Arkhipov failed in his mission; underscores how close we came to triggering a doomsday scenario during this crisis.

We Have The Power To Dismantle Doomsday Machines And Prevent A Nuclear Winter

Nuclear Winter

It’s essential that we take action on the possibility of a nuclear winter and ensure that the doomsday machines of western powers stay disconnected from one another.

To make that happen, we need to raise public awareness of the risks posed by these weapons and rally support for dismantling them.

This will involve mass pressure placed on Congress and other international bodies to investigate nuclear war strategies and put in place measures to prevent an accidental launch.

It could lead to situations where whistleblowers publicly release information about current national war plans and demand greater transparency on a state’s nuclear capacity.

Moreover, citizens can lobby their governments to reconsider the use of such weaponry – we have seen both the non-violent dissolution of the USSR and South Africa’s abolishment of apartheid as prime examples of when people used their voices to drive change.

If we are truly committed to living without fear of potential nuclear winter, then this is how we must create it: by encouraging greater public awareness of doomsday machines which will in turn force politicians into disassembling them.

Wrap Up

In his book The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg puts the spotlight on the flaws in the US and USSR’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

In it, he exposes how low-level officers can potentially authorize a nuclear attack and how there are no security measures put in place to stop them.

He also emphasizes how these war tactics amount to nothing more than an attack on humanity as a whole.

The key takeaway from this book is that increased public awareness is necessary if we ever hope to end the use of doomsday machines.

This begins with joining or creating an anti-nuclear movement, as well as educating people about the dangers of these weapons and calling on our leaders to take action.

Doing so will help move us towards a world where nuclear stability and peace are in reach, rather than a perpetual state of war and destruction.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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