Published in Physics and Society Newsletter, Volume 28, Issue 2, April 1, 1999, pages 19-20.
Copyright © 1999 American Physical Society. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Physical Society. The following article appeared in Physics and Society Newsletter and may be found at http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/1999/april/rapr99.html#a5.
Science aims to link cause and effect for natural phenomena. Linking cause and effect for historical events is often more difficult since historical events cannot be tested by rerunning history with varied parameters. Despite the difficulty, it is worthwhile to review the causes behind the magnitude of the U.S. nuclear buildup. Two critical questions should guide this analysis: How much of the $5.8 trillion (1996 dollars) that the U.S spent to build 70,000 nuclear warheads, deployed on 75,000 missiles and 8600 bombers, was too much? And, was the effectiveness of the Soviet military exaggerated with false predictions? These two books go a long way towards quantifying the costs, and explaining the large size, of the buildup.