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(((James Acton))) @james_acton32
, 12 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
<THREAD>The #2020 Commission by @ArmsControlWonk—a belated Twitter review.

Warning: Contains a few spoilers (though, in fairness, they pale in comparison to the one in the book's title.)

This review is a bit belated, partly because I’ve been slammed but also because I delayed reading the book, fearing it would be both terrifying and plausible—and it is…

The plausibility works at two levels: the micro (a multitude of painstakingly researched details) and the macro (the overall plot).

.@ArmsControlWonk can--just occasionally—be a bit obsessive. 😉 In fiction, this trait serves him well, leading to prose full of colorful details—the firing sequences for South Korean missiles, the layout of Mar-a-Largo, Japanese fire-fighting culture…

More importantly, the plot works at the macro level. Decision-makers act rationally given the available information—albeit with catastrophic results. In fact, the plot graphically illustrates two key themes from the recent literature on escalation.

First, threats of regime change, even if unintentional, could lead to catastrophic escalation. Keir Lieber and Daryl Press have argued this persuasively—which is interesting because, while L&P and @ArmsControlWonk disagree on policy, they do agree on the underlying risk.

The second theme is the escalation risks of "entanglement" between nuclear and nonnuclear capabilities. @ArmsControlWonk draws on evidence that North Korea uses the same cell phone network for civilian communications and nuclear command and control…

…when the network is overwhelmed by civilian calls, after a small strike by South Korea, it looks to Kim Jong-un like the United States has launched a cyber attack on the North Korean nuclear command-and-control system.

I question whether such risks have really been internalized by U.S. war planners. If reading the book gives a few of them a few sleepness nights, so much the better.

Other readers may also suffer from insomnia, even (especially?) if they are powerless to do anything about the risks—but they will at least get some laughs along the way…

…the fight over the “nuclear football” under a putting green at Mar-a-Largo is laugh-out-loud funny, but @ArmsControlWonk is at his satirical best when CNN cuts away to a hair loss commercial in the middle of covering nuclear attacks on U.S. cities.

Full disclosure: Given that I SURVIVE THE WAR (I give testimony to the commission), I’m not a totally unbiased observer. But it really is as brilliantly plausible and terrifying as earlier reviewers have suggested. Go buy it.

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