Academic journal article Military Review

WORLD ON FIRE: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation

Academic journal article Military Review

WORLD ON FIRE: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation

Article excerpt

WORLD ON FIRE: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation, Lynn Eden, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2004, 365 pages, $32.50.

The Cold War was largely characterized by a balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States in regard to their possession of nuclear weapons. However, if used, U.S. weapons, yielding up to 15,000 kilotons, would have caused severe damage, if not total annihilation, of Soviet state infrastructure. But, comprehensive damage-assessment in regard to the use of U.S. nuclear weapons was based solely on the blast potential of the nuclear detonation. What was not included in damage-assessment planning was the effect of the firestorm that would have followed a nuclear blast. The omission of fire damage subsequent to a nuclear detonation left a gaping hole in strategic nuclear damage-assessment planning.

While Lynn Eden covers a number of issues relating to strategic and nuclear applications, her focus is on the lack of comprehensive damage analysis in regard to atomic and nuclear weapons, specifically regarding fire. According to Eden, the failure to develop a comprehensive damage-assessment metric was largely a result of existing paradigms in the U.S. defense establishment and the scientific communities of the time. The inability to fully understand and accurately predict the dynamics of nuclear conflagrations and associated firestorms led to an incomplete assessment of U.S. destructive potential.

Eden concludes that "organizational frames" caused the dearth of comprehensive nuclear damage assessments. Throughout the book she addresses how organizations develop, change, and implement knowledge based on collective studies and how this body of knowledge can preclude comprehensive analysis. …

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