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At the Borderline of Armageddon

How American Presidents Managed the Atom Bomb

James E. Goodby

"No previous generation of statesmen has had to conduct policy in so unknown an environment at the border line of Armageddon"-Henry Kissinger

Nuclear weapons pose a unique challenge to American foreign policy and the American president in particular. The choices the president makes with regard to atomic weapons can change the course of human history and affect the lives of billions of people.

In this important new work, scholar, teacher, and diplomat James Goodby analyzes how American presidents have confronted the dilemma of nuclear weapons. Drawing on his own involvement in over fifty years of nuclear policy, he explores specific case studies to illustrate the decision making process and the delicate balance between international cooperation and freedom of action, between the rules of behavior and governmental autonomy.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 224Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7425-5075-9 • Hardback • May 2006 • $106.00 • (£70.00)
978-0-7425-5076-6 • Paperback • May 2006 • $33.00 • (£22.95)
978-0-7425-7088-7 • eBook • May 2006 • $31.00 • (£21.95)
James E. Goodby is a research affiliate with MIT's Program on Science, Technology, and Society, where he dedicates his research to issues involving nuclear weapons. Goodby has served in a variety of diplomatic and policy positions in both Europe and Washington, placing strong emphasis on international security affairs. Among Goodby's most recent books are The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons, co-authored with Sidney Drell, and A Strategy for Stable Peace, co-authored with Petrus Buwalda and Dmitri Trenin. He is the recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the State Department's Superior and Distinguished Honor Award, and the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit from the German government. In 1995, Goodby received the inaugural Heinz Award in Public Policy.
Part 1 Preface
Part 2 Part 1: The Logic of War, 1941-1952
Chapter 3 At the Beginning: Churchill, Roosevelt and Truman
Part 4 Part 2: Setting the Rules for the Long Haul, 1953-1968
Chapter 5 Nuclear Deterrence or Preventive War? Eisenhower's Choice
Chapter 6 John Kennedy: From Crisis to Triumph to Tragedy
Chapter 7 Lyndon Johnson: The Offense-Defense Riddle
Part 8 Part III: Facing the Problems of Parity, 1969-1980
Chapter 9 Richard Nixon: Only Connect
Chapter 10 Gerald Ford: A Time to Plant
Chapter 11 Jimmy Carter: The Limits of Presidential Power
Part 12 Part IV: A Break With the Past, 1981-1988
Chapter 13 The Reagan Revolution in Nuclear Weaponry
Part 14 Part V: Once More into the Unknown
Chapter 15 George H. W. Bush: Managing the Soviet Succession
Chapter 16 William J. Clinton: Facing New Threats
Chapter 17 George W. Bush: Overthrowing the Old Order
Part 18 Afterword
At last, a well-written, objective account of the evolution of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and efforts at nuclear arms control from the beginning of the nuclear age to the dangerous situation we face today. In At the Borderline of Armageddon, James Goodby examines how each U.S. president since World War II has sought to manage the atomic bomb. . . . I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in the evolution of U.S. nuclear policy or seeking a challenging text for a college course. Our current president might well profit from this book as he contemplates his legacy. In addition, it should be mandatory reading for any aspirant to the presidency in 2008.
Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.; Arms Control Today

At the Borderline of Armageddon provides a crisp and thoughtful summary of the lessons taught by half a century of effort to control nuclear weapons. It is also a powerful reminder of how much we are in danger of forgetting those lessons.
Ernest May, Harvard University

This book examines how U.S. presidents have discharged the enormous responsibilities they carry with respect to nuclear weapons. Jim Goodby draws on his own extensive experience in government to provide a clear and lively account of U.S. nuclear weapons policy from the beginning to the present. His analysis is authoritative, and his judgments wise. He explains how we got to where we are and shows what we should do to address our current nuclear problems. For those concerned about U.S. nuclear weapons policy this is an indispensable book.
David Holloway, Stanford University

At a time when terrorism and proliferation have once again forced us to consider how to deal with nuclear weapons, At the Borderline of Armageddon recalls the fascinating and terrifying history of the nuclear age. James Goodby has written an extraordinary and engaging book that has much to teach leaders and ordinary citizens alike.
Lee Hamilton, president, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and vice chair, 9/11 Commission

Since 1945 and the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, every American president has had to make daunting decisions about nuclear weapons. James Goodby has been intimately involved in the administrations of 8 presidents, starting with Dwight Eisenhower, in U.S. efforts to reduce nuclear danger through diplomatic negotiations and policy choices. He has written an authoritative and fascinating account of these efforts, discussing the political, strategic, and technical components. This book is an important contribution for all who wish to understand the past history and what it portends for future challenges.
Sidney Drell, Stanford University

Goodby begins at the end of World War II and examines how each president dealt with and handled the threat of nuclear weapons. . . . Those with an interest in politics and American history would enjoy this book.
Sunday Times Record News

For those who believe that intelligent and effective diplomacy still can and should be a major toll to preserve American security, this book is a must-read.
Foreign Service Journal

A sweeping yet concise overview of nuclear policy for each administration from Truman through George W. Bush . . . Goodby's ability to distill the essence of complex issues, his analysis of long-term trends, and his personal recollections of negotiations make this a compelling account. Recommended.

Part historical analysis, part memoir, this book is a lucid, authoritative account by a key participant of how every administration from Truman to Clinton wrestled with the terrible problem of nuclear arms control and made real progress in managing it through an international regime—until the current Bush administration set out from the very outset to dismantle it. The story is always interesting and instructive, and in the end, despite its calm, objective tone, frightening.
Paul W. Schroeder, University of Illinois