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Lawrence WittnerConfronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement

Stanford University Press, 2009

by marshall poe on September 11, 2009

Lawrence Wittner

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In 1983, when I was in college, I participated in something called a “Die-In.” A group of us set up crosses on the commons and threw ourselves on the ground as if we were dead. The idea, such as it was, was to suggest that nuclear weapons were bad and should be done away with. Quite honestly, I didn’t really think it would work (to put it mildly).  But as Larry Wittner shows in his compelling Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford, 2009), I was wrong, or at least partially wrong. Larry demonstrates that the nuclear disarmament movement had an impact on government policy. Politicians, not just here in the US but also in unlikely places like the USSR, actually listened to the protesters. But they sensed that a lot of people–like Einstein and me–were very uncomfortable with mutually assured destruction and wanted something done about it. Ronald Reagan listened. And so did Mikhail Gorbachev. After reading Larry’s book, I’m thinking I may organize another “Die-In.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

rwood October 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Much as I enjoy these interviews on NBIH, I was a bit frustrated that the discussion with Mr. Wittner did not elicit his thoughts on what seemed to me the two elephants in the room: (1) unpleasant as it was, MAD in fact successfully avoided a nuclear war; and (2) what significance does he attach to the disclosures in recent years of Soviet sponsorship of some of the anti-nuke movements?

I’m sure that he often gets asked about these points frequently, and it would be interesting to hear his views on them.

Christopher Rushlau April 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

Here’s a joke about the Soviet view of the cold war and MAD.
“Notice in Moscow hotel room: In case of nuclear attack, remove sheet from bed, drape over head and body, and go immediately to nearest cemetery.”
Apparently Russian practice in burials was to use a shroud.

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