Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Countries are fighting in chemical warfare

Like most people I know, I have been wondering why we don't have an accessible single volume history of chemical weapons. For nukes, we have Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb which can truly be described as magisterial. For bio, we have Germs, which can be a tad sensationalist, but is overall excellent. But chem has gone lonely....until now! Jonathan Tucker's War of Nerves is a solid history of chemical weapons covering scientific development, use in the field, war planning, the bureaucratic politics that kept the programs going longer than needed in the US, the means by which the Soviets hid their program and the arms controls efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. It isn't a perfect book. The need to cover so much information means that it is almost purely descriptive with little analysis or policy prescription. For me, this was acceptable. Understanding how they work and are developed is about all I could handle in one volume. If I were better informed, I might feel differently.

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