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Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety | [Eric Schlosser]

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. 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? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.
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Publisher's Summary

A myth-shattering exposé of America's nuclear weapons.

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. 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? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind. While the harms of global warming increasingly dominate the news, the equally dangerous yet more immediate threat of nuclear weapons has been largely forgotten.

Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than 50 years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policy makers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can't be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering 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. At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with people 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. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control. Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America's nuclear age.

©2013 Eric Schlosser (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What Members Say

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4.4 (590 )
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  •  
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13 Member Since 2013

    A 33 year old with a painfully short attention span. Audible brought me back to reading."

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A different kind of scary"

    Normally when I think of scary books I think of monsters or serial killers or something along those lines. This book is scary on a whole new level. What it lacks in monsters it makes up for in glitches and close calls that could have literally been hours away from starting a nuclear war. Think about that. A computer glitch could have caused a war. More than once. And I wouldn't be surprised it there were even more that weren't made public. I used to think that government cover ups were just things that over eccentric people ranted about, but clearly I was a lot more naive than I thought I was.

    My only criticism is that the timeline skips around a bit, and while I didn't find it too confusing, I did find it annoying. Even with the weird skippy timeline I would recommend it though.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow. I had no idea."

    This was the first thing I’ve read that goes into any detail on the situation of the nuclear situation in the US and the world. Wow. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to know so much about missiles and warheads and what it takes to keep them secret and secure, but after I started realizing the scope of what could have gone wrong during the heights of the Cold War the information quickly went from being academic to something much more real.

    The number of accidents involving nuclear warheads is surprisingly high. The internal politics revolving around how these weapons should be used are maddening. The scope of the destruction that would have ensued had the Cold War master plan ever been carried out is literally insane. The fact that so many nations to this day have the power to cause that type of destruction makes the relatively stable state of the world seem tenuous to say the least.

    Command and Conquer starts off slow, but quickly becomes an engrossing freakshow of the insanity of the Cold War and the truly awful power of the superpowers

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jared Prosper, TX, United States 02-02-14
    Jared Prosper, TX, United States 02-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Software engineer and avid, lifetime student. I like deep, thoughtful non-fiction, and fiction that compliments and enriches it.

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    "Incredible and true"

    Schlosser tells the story of how the US narrowly avoided a Chernobyl-level catastrophe by sheer luck, but also conveys the history of US nuclear weapons, both the public-side - as well as the messy details officials have struggled to keep quiet. In the midst of these two narratives, this book wrestles with the philosophical viability of command and control heirarchies - where they succeed and where they fail. An engaging and entertaining read that is broadly relevant.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Engrossing"
    Any additional comments?

    Reads like a thriller. Quite amazing how close we came to nuclear disaster on multiple occasions and those are only the tales from our side. A well told story that interweaves in detail a mishap at an ICBM silo with a history of nuclear weapons safety and close calls. Chilling!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Foster Sacrametno, CA 12-15-13
    K. Foster Sacrametno, CA 12-15-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Reading, Good background, but Disjointed"
    What did you like best about Command and Control? What did you like least?

    The story about the incident was excellent and well detailed. The historical background was well researched. The problem was the segway's within the story were too long and in some cases failed to add real value.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    I found the stories about the near disastrous accidents very interesting.


    Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but I found his reading to be most enjoyable.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Not in its current form.


    Any additional comments?

    The writer appears to have gotten lost in some of the Segway's and after a 30-45min departure from the story you often think:

    1. What was this storyline again?
    2. I am not sure that long a foray added value to the core story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tsen 04-17-15
    Tsen 04-17-15
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    Story
    "Fantastic and terrifying"

    The book was a great mix of narrative tension and historical overview. Both aspects of the book were flawless and I was eagerly listening the whole way through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TylerShaw 04-13-15
    TylerShaw 04-13-15
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    "great book"

    Well told, interesting, and keeps you on your toes. It is told like a fiction novel, but it is all true.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AJ 04-05-15
    AJ 04-05-15
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    "Great book, great research"

    After reading this book it is amazing we are still here. In your wildest dreams you never could have imagined that the government and military could be so incompetent when it comes to nuclear weapons. An eye opening must read. What aren't we being told today?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lego Mom 03-16-15
    Lego Mom 03-16-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "We're all on borrowed time!"

    Great listen. This is one of the few where I felt like I should listen to it again pretty much right away.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MAC 01-17-15
    MAC 01-17-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great And Scary Book"

    I grew up a hundred miles east of Damascus, AR and I can't say how scary it is to read this book and find out that this happen only a few miles away while I slept one autumn night in 1980. I am thankfully I didn't have tons of radioactive fallout rain down on my family's home while we slept. The author is correct in that if it is possible for an accident to happen it will given enough time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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