From famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, comes Command and Control a ground-breaking account of the management of nuclear weapons
A groundbreaking account of accidents, near-misses, extraordinary heroism and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? Schlosser reveals that this question has never been resolved, and while other headlines dominate the news, nuclear weapons still pose a grave risk to mankind.
At the heart of Command and Control lies the story of an accident at a missile silo in rural Arkansas, where a handful of men struggled to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States. Schlosser interweaves this minute-by-minute account with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can't be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Looking at the Cold War from a new perspective, Schlosser offers history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.
Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with men who designed and routinely handled nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. It reveals how even the most brilliant of minds can offer us only the illusion of control. Audacious, gripping and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism.
Eric Schlosser is the author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, as well as the co-author of a children's book, Chew on This. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, the Nation, and Vanity Fair. Two of his plays, Americans (2003) and We the People (2007), have been produced in London.
'A work with the multi-layered density of an ambitiously conceived novel'
John Lloyd, Financial Times
'Command and Control is how non-fiction should be written ... By a miracle of information management, Schlosser has synthesized a huge archive of material, including government reports, scientific papers, and a substantial historical and polemical literature on nukes, and transformed it into a crisp narrative covering more than fifty years of scientific and political change. And he has interwoven that narrative with a hair-raising, minute-by-minute account of an accident at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas, in 1980, which he renders in the manner of a techno-thriller'
'The strength of Schlosser's writing derives from his ability to carry a wealth of startling detail on a confident narrative path'
Ed Pilkington, Guardian
'Disquieting but riveting ... fascinating ... Schlosser's readers (and he deserves a great many) will be struck by how frequently the people he cites attribute the absence of accidental explosions and nuclear war to divine intervention or sheer luck rather than to human wisdom and skill. Whatever was responsible, we will clearly need many more of it in the years to come'
Walter Russell Mead, New York Times
In 1980 in rural Damascus, Ark., two young Air Force technicians (one was 21 years old, the other 19) began a routine maintenance procedure on a 103-foot-tall Titan II nuclear warhead armed intercontinental ballistic missile. All was going according to plan until one of the men dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet before hitting the rocket and setting off a chain reaction with alarming consequences. After that nail-biting opening, investigative reporter Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) goes on to tell the thrilling story of the heroism, ingenuity, mistakes, and destruction that followed. At intervals, he steps back to deliver an equally captivating history of the development and maintenance of America's nuclear arsenal from WWII to the present. Though the Cold War has ended and concerns over nuclear warfare have mostly been eclipsed by the recent preoccupation with terrorist threats, Schlosser makes it abundantly clear that nukes don't need to be launched to still be mind-bogglingly dangerous. Mixing expert commentary with hair-raising details of a variety of mishaps, the author makes the convincing case that our best control systems are no match for human error, bad luck, and ever-increasing technological complexity. "Mutually assured destruction" is a terrifying prospect, but Schlosser points out that there may be an even more frightening possibility: self-assured destruction.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The many dangers of a Nuclear Deterrent
A brilliant catalogue of near cataclysmic disasters brings the handling of our Nuclear deterrent in to focus and illustrates just how close we've been to the brink. Well written and full of fascinating facts about the evolution of the Nuclear arms race. Recommended.
I have only just started this book and already it is really scaring me how the US government have tried to cover up this nuclear accident. Definitely living up to Fast Food Nation so far...