During the brief war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, one of the earliest targets was Gori, a nondescript industrial town near the border of South Ossetia, one of the two separatist provinces over which the conflict was fought. Russian jets bombed the city, hitting apartment buildings and a school. A missile thudded onto the grounds of the city’s hospital; cluster bombs exploded in the square. According to the Georgian government, at least 60 people died. It was curious, therefore, that two local landmarks escaped the bombardment entirely.
The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 534 pp., $35) In late March 1953, a colonel named Bernard Schriever sat in a briefing room at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, listening as John von Neumann, the brilliant mathematician, and Edward Teller, the physicist, discussed the future of the hydrogen bomb, the far more powerful follow-on to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki eight years earlier.
William Safire, pungent pundit of pugnacity, impish impresario of impudence, limpid lookout for lexicography, knew his p.r. Just shy of his 30th birthday, in 1959, he gave a huge boost to one of his clients, the Florida manufacturer of a model home on exhibit at a Moscow trade fair, when he contrived to usher Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev into the kitchen showroom.