This was previously published on GoodReads…

The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous LegacyThe Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mankind’s eons-long pursuit of more efficient ways to kill fellow human beings never ceases to amaze and awe. However, the 20th Century seemed to reach a zenith in that endeavor. WWI with trench warfare and the use of deadly gases to kill and maim was just the beginning.

In Hoffman’s well-documented treatise, he takes you on a journey through the post-WWII era of the “Cold War“; forever known as “cold” due the fact that it did not turn HOT, and HOT would have been very, very bad for all life on this rock had it occurred. He goes on to track the insanity into current times.

This is a history book, folks. For some, that’s an immediate turn off. That’s a shame because through the study of history, one can achieve two things…

  • learn what NOT to do in the future


  • be completely astounded by the behaviors and beliefs of those who came before you.

The nuclear arms race was, in some respects, quite logical in how it came about. On the other hand, though, as you study it, you begin to understand and see the absolute total insanity that was rampant in the thoughts of men during that time. We can see it as insanity while being viewed through the rear-view mirror of history, of course, but those involved intimately with these events really, in many cases, thought that they were resolving issues.

I cannot easily put myself in the shoes of post-WWII era Soviet leaders. I cannot easily understand their horrendously paranoid delusions regarding attacks from outside their realm. I don’t know if it’s the result of their insular closed societies or what. What I do know is that these delusions led them to build up the deadliest stockpile of agents of death ever seen on this planet; from multiple warhead thermonuclear devices to microscopic plague spores… and everything you can dream of (or have nightmares about) in between.

I’m not saying the U.S. or any other countries weren’t also participating in this global insanity; they definitely were. I’m just saying the the Soviets’ entire existence seemed to revolve around this steep downward slide to Armageddon. I would like to hope things are a bit different these days, but that hope is countered by a cynical view of current events and dangerous personalities on the world stage at the moment.

Carl Von Clausewitz is credited with saying, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” A better quote would be from William Tecumseh Sherman who during the American Civil War is noted for saying, “War is Hell.” This is a deep truth here. We, as a species, desperately need to modify our behaviors in how we interact with one another. We have enough problems these days. We need to stop slaughtering one another over inane disagreements caused by trivial differences in our beliefs or goals.

Read this book. It is a history of man’s descent into the abyss of Hell. It will depress you. It may also teach you a few things about humanity; things not taught in church Sunday schools or high school history classes.

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About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

2 responses »

  1. crond says:

    Hi there buddy, after a really long time ( years may be) , visited your blog….Happy to see you …Nice write-up…tempted to read the book..will check in audible 😉

    • Hey you! You’re right. It has been a while. Glad to see you’re still alive and kickin’! Yeah, this book is an eye-opener. If you feel the urge, grab it. Read it. It’ll be worth it.

      I don’t blog as much as I used to. Actually, I don’t even spend that much time online these days. When I read a good book, though, I like to pass along the info.

      Take care!


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