Here’s the shameless self-promotion page, where you can purchase my books or download PDFs (to be added soon) of some of my articles.
Thanks to the great team at Penn Press, I’ve been allowed to offer a sneak peak of the preface and introduction to my newest book .To get the FREE PDF file, click here.
Here’s the description and endorsements.
For more than forty years, the United States has maintained a public commitment to nuclear disarmament, and every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama has gradually reduced the size of America’s nuclear forces. Yet even now, over two decades after the end of the Cold War, the United States maintains a huge nuclear arsenal on high alert and ready for war. The Americans, like the Russians, the Chinese, and other major nuclear powers, continue to retain a deep faith in the political and military value of nuclear force, and this belief remains enshrined at the center of U.S. defense policy regardless of the radical changes that have taken place in international politics.
In No Use, national security scholar Thomas M. Nichols offers a lucid, accessible reexamination of the role of nuclear weapons and their prominence in U.S. security strategy. Nichols explains why strategies built for the Cold War have survived into the twenty-first century, and he illustrates how America’s nearly unshakable belief in the utility of nuclear arms has hindered U.S. and international attempts to slow the nuclear programs of volatile regimes in North Korea and Iran. From a solid historical foundation, Nichols makes the compelling argument that to end the danger of worldwide nuclear holocaust, the United States must take the lead in abandoning unrealistic threats of nuclear force and then create a new and more stable approach to deterrence for the twenty-first century.
“A level-headed, jargon-free rejection of false choices about our nuclear future. Tom Nichols has written a very fine book for newcomers to the Bomb as well as for those who have become too comfortable with its acquaintance. At a time when domestic political wrangles and seemingly intractable nuclear dilemmas abound, Nichols offers a thought-provoking argument for the United States to drop all pretense about the Bomb and to unilaterally adopt a posture of minimum nuclear deterrence.”—Michael Krepon, Cofounder of The Stimson Center
“With the end of the Cold War, many of us stopped thinking about nuclear weapons. Thomas Nichols explains why we had better pay attention, and his thoughtful and penetrating analysis will guide us in paying better attention.”—Robert Jervis, Columbia University
“A succinct and well-written account of an important and much-debated national security issue. Nichols makes a convincing case for abandoning nuclear threats and relying on conventional deterrence and compellence to deal with nuclear proliferators.”—T. V. Paul, McGill University
“A highly readable counternarrative to sixty years of prevailing wisdom about nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy.”—Jeffrey Lewis, Monterey Institute of International Studies
“The advent of an age of prevention is a potential tragedy. If we are not careful, it could well end up representing the defeat of three centuries in which nations and their leaders struggled to define laws and traditions to help us to retain some sense of humanity even in those awful moments just before we might have to decide to kill each other.”
This book generated a lot of objections to its subject before anyone read it. In the three years I took researching and writing it, I would tell people that I was working on a book about preventive war. Of course, a lot of folks immediately thought I was in favor of the idea, which I wasn’t; rather, I was just trying to unravel the puzzle of why so many countries — and Putin’s Russia was the case that interested me at first, not Bush’s America — no longer felt a compunction about attacking even remote threats to their security. I think I was ahead of the curve on this: I noted in the book that we’d be likely to see an increase in such actions, the Iraq fiasco notwithstanding. Sadly, I was right.
You can download the first chapter of Eve of Destruction free here.
“Whatever the awesome scope of the West’s military and economic power, the Western advantage is even more decisive in cultural and political strength. Military means will not win our future cold wars. The commitment to freedom is the single greatest weapon in the Western arsenal, and the one our enemies hope most to destroy.”
This book was the result of a question posed to me by Margaret MacMillan in the late 1990s, when she edited International Journal in Canada: with a few notable exceptions, why wasn’t more being written about the new materials available about the Cold War? My guess was (and is) that academic specialists had invested too much in their previous notions of the Cold War to abandon them. The book’s central thesis is that the Cold War was more about ideology than about power, as was the then-newly launched war on terror. Of all the long projects I’ve ever undertaken, this one was the most fun, if only to immortalize the fact that Soviet ideologists thought Superman II was a Reaganite parable and the Village People were disco militarists.
“Are presidents dangerous? That is, are they actually a threat to the republics they are sworn to protect?”
I wish I could tell you that I’d foreseen what a disaster Putin turned out to be. I didn’t, and this revised edition, in which I discuss Putin, has some pretty wincingly optimistic hopes for a man who turned out to be exactly what his worst critics feared. But I think at least some of the theoretical argument — especially my taking issue with the obsession among some Western political scientists for parliamentarism — still holds up. I completely underestimated the degree to which the Kremlin under Yeltsin, and then especially under Putin, undermined the formation of stable parties, but I think I was also right that the Russian liberals of the 1990s and after didn’t need much help to blow their own chances for change. And I did write that Russians, if pushed too far, would push back against presidential authoritarianism. That story isn’t over yet.
The Sacred Cause is now out of print, but I’d argue it’s still one of the best studies of Soviet civil-military relations. (It’s certainly one of the few.) I think the image of the Soviet military, and my warnings about the Russian military to follow it, turned out to be accurate, both theoretically and practically.
I have a soft spot for this book, because this is the one that was nearly a career-ender for me over twenty years ago, when a professor at MIT (now deceased) went after it with a vengeance; of course, he may not have liked that I pointed out that he had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a coup in the USSR was a ridiculous notion — nine weeks before it happened. Oops. (That’s the kind of prediction people make when they know more about math and models than they do about history and culture.) Turns out his criticisms actually saved my career, but that’s a story for another day.