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Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S.…
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Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save… (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 2017; vuoden 2018 painos)

– tekijä: Garrett M. Graff (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1678125,029 (3.71)4
"The eye-opening truth about the government's secret plans to survive a catastrophic attack on US soil--even if the rest of us die--a roadmap that spans from the dawn of the nuclear age to today"--Provided by publisher.
Jäsen:briangreiner
Teoksen nimi:Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself-While the Rest of Us Die
Kirjailijat:Garrett M. Graff (Tekijä)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2018), Edition: Reprint, 560 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
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Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die (tekijä: Garrett M. Graff) (2017)

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die by Garrett M. Graff is probably going to be the go-to book for learning about the history of American continuity-of-government for the foreseeable future. If you ever wanted to learn the ins and outs of how every President from Truman through Obama worked to make sure some part of the United States Government survived World War III, this is definitely your book. (I suppose it also makes great reference material for anyone into Fallout, too).

Full review beneath the break.

Raven Rock is premised around what is almost a quirk of technological history - atomic weapons fundamentally reshaped the way America (and the other major powers of the world) are governed. Atomic bombs have the power to destroy an entire nation in a matter of hours, which is a qualitative difference from any other kind of warfighting. As a result, military and executive branch leaders cannot be expected to consult legislative or judicial authorities before launching their own counter-attack, because they may literally have mere minutes to do so, or never at all. Given that Washington, D.C. could be wiped out with as little as fifteen minute's warning, it suddenly became imperative to ensure that a system existed to ensure that the United States could retaliate against the Soviet Union, thereby implementing the logic of mutually assured destruction.

This changes a lot. For starters, it fundamentally and irrevocably enhances the power of the executive branch - Congress can never be consulted, practically speaking, about a decision which could very well determine the fate of humanity. Furthermore, the system that allows the President (or an authorized replacement) to launch a nuclear strike (most importantly from submerged ballistic missile submarines, the ultimate deterrent) is the single greatest priority of the government. Fundamentally, all other priorities come after ensuring the United States can effectively deter the Soviet Union. This lead to countless billions of dollars being spent on hardened bunkers, evacuation plans, Air Force One upgrades, and last-ditch worldwide communications systems encompassing everything from the AT&T phone network to mile-long antennae hoisted into the air by helicopters. Documenting these systems - Raven Rock, Mount Weather, NORAD, etc. - is the bulk of the book.

As someone long interested in disaster planning, most of the material was familiar to me, in the broad strokes if not the details. There's always a plane that follows Air Force One wherever it goes. There's always an officer with the nuclear football within two minute's of the President's position. It doesn't go into the level of technical detail you'd get from a Tom Clancy novel (specifically The Sum of All Fears), but it's far more than you could ever hope to quickly dig up on your own.

I still found the historical elements the most interesting, admittedly. By the 1960s, 'duck and cover' drills notwithstanding, the United States government had basically abandoned any kind of civil defense planning. Apart from a brief uptake of interest in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the government basically gave up attempting to ensure any meaningful fraction of the population was evacuated in the event of a nuclear war. It was, simply, impossible. But the government could focus on preserving itself, whether that be ensuring the Department of Defense could function without the Pentagon to stockpiling countless $2 bills in Federal Reserve storehouses to figuring out how to publish the Federal Register in the event that D.C. is destroyed.

Of course, if there's anything the book drives home, it's that the plans were always much better on paper than they were in practice. Almost every surprise drill was botched in one way or another. The 9/11 attack, documented in detail, shows how many mind-boggling communications problems there were that you would think were relics of the 20th century. (The Secretary of Defense was unreachable for critical periods of time, Colin Powel was stuck on a plane from Peru, etc.). And when it comes to Armageddon, the psychological element is most problematic of all. Continuity of government plans notwithstanding, it's pretty clear that at least a sizeable fraction of government officials prioritized for evacuation had no intention of leaving if their families would not also be saved. Given that that would not be the case in almost every evacuation plan (except, oddly enough, the Federal Reserve's), one really has to wonder how many civilians would jump into helicopters headed for Appalachia knowing their families were doomed to die.

This actually seems to have been a very real problem that almost everyone was cognizant of but never really addressed. Presidents were reluctant to evacuate in the critical minutes they had, because they would rather provide command authority and leadership for the last possible moments than flee. The Supreme Court seemed entirely uninterested in evacuation plans, assessing (quite correctly, I believe) that in the event of a nuclear war, the function of the judicial branch would evaporate. Nobody ever figured out a way to save Congress, let alone decide what it would do.

If World War III happened (or if a disaster of unspeakable nature occurs in the future), there's no real assurance that the systems will work. There are too many constitutional and logistical uncertainties to know who would assume the Office of the Presidency in the event of a decapitatory strike… and it'd all probably revert to martial law anyways. Furthermore, the book raises very real questions as to whether anyone would ever order a retaliatory nuclear exchange in the scarce minutes before the time to do so evaporated. It's fundamentally unknowable, but signs point to perhaps not. One is left wondering if that is best for humanity or not.

Overall - recommended if you're interested in knowing more, but without getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty. My nitpicks are mostly centered around that loftiness - many systems are described, but the level of detail often feels superficial, listing the various towns emergency warehouses are located, but nothing more, for example. For a book written by a journalist I found the prose surprisingly stilted, closer to reading a series of Simple Wikipedia articles at times. Other times it felt like an infodump of literally everything the author learned about a subject, but without much context to support it. But if you like the first chapters or two, you'll like it all.

(Did not read all the endnotes because the formatting on Kindle's web viewer is horrible.) ( )
  pvoberstein | Dec 14, 2020 |
Super interesting cold war history book that doesn't really focus on the cold war, but rather focuses on the continuity of government planning from ~1950 - 2001. Closely follows presidential changes between administrations, ongoing war efforts, and CoG events and how they shaped the way the govt handles situations. Pretty interesting actually! ( )
  bhiggs | Sep 11, 2020 |
While there was VERY interesting information in this book, it was frequently buried under piles of not terribly pertinent details. A member of my book group compared the book to a text book. The level of detail in this book made it a grueling read for me.
So while the information about the U.S.'s doomsday prep is fascinating, this book is definitely not a nonfiction novel. ( )
  dcoward | Jul 25, 2019 |
I read Raven Rock right after Daniel Ellsberg's The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (which I recommend), which made for some enlightening moments of reading the same events from different perspectives. Eisenhower's predelegation of nuclear weapons authority, for example, comes across quite differently when it's discovered in the field vs. evolved from the president's concerns. Add Eric Schlosser's Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, and we're now far enough from the Cold War to have a set of accessible histories of the era that give more of the picture of just how dangerous it was.

Ellsberg: The plan was to kill everybody in response to any active war with the Soviets.
Schlosser: We came a lot closer to accidental war than we knew, and we also almost nuked ourselves a few times.
Graff: Your plan to escape to the wilderness was futile because the Soviets knew about, and presumably targeted, the secret bunkers you didn't know were in the same hills.
Ellsberg, again: Nuclear war plans were going to kill everyone, anyway.

I've read heavier books and papers about nuclear weapons strategy over the years, but these books have provided the context that was always secret. Let's call it, seeing the challenge with fresh eyes. ( )
  Pinebranch | Mar 11, 2018 |
This was a really good book. Since the beginning of the Cold War the government has spent billions on the continuation of itself, its institutions and people in the event of a nuclear war. Bunkers have been dug, evacuation schemes devised in what became giant Rube-Goldberg contraptions. As trial runs have happened and natural disasters occurred, one thing is obvious, plans for dealing with a widespread nuclear are not up to task.
Note to publisher: This is a book about government; a glossary of acronyms would have been handy. ( )
  LamSon | Nov 12, 2017 |
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"The eye-opening truth about the government's secret plans to survive a catastrophic attack on US soil--even if the rest of us die--a roadmap that spans from the dawn of the nuclear age to today"--Provided by publisher.

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