Approximately 7603 words.
A GLOSSARY OF IDEAS DISCUSSED IN
HERMAN KAHN’S CLASSIC BOOK:
ON THERMONUCLEAR WAR
INCLUDING AN ACCOUNT OF HOW TWO DAYS OF INNOVATIVE LECTURES GOT INTO BOOK FORMAT AND AROUSED A WORLDWIDE AUDIENCE IN 1960
The pioneering book On Thermonuclear War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960) by Herman Kahn, the nuclear physicist, strategic thinker, and futurist, is 652 closely reasoned pages. It uses first to last a vocabulary mostly unknown to the public at its time of publication–and not much better comprehended since then. The awesome subject of the book is, in the author’s precise words, “the deterrence and waging of thermonuclear ‘Central Wars’ between the United States and the Soviet Union….” (p. viii) The book’s complex contents have long posed a challenge for interested readers.
This article and the scholarship attached does something to remedy that situation. After an essay on how the book came into existence, it offers an alphabetical listing of terminology, called here a Glossary, which was slowly prepared by one who was closely involved with editing the original Kahn book into published form. Kahn did not prepare the glossary; and he never got to see it. None of it claims to offer ideas original with this author; everything derives from Kahn’s book. The claim here is that the attentive reader should emerge with some familiarity with the nomenclature of thermonuclear war. Continue reading Nomenclature for a Nuclear Age