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War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda

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In this important and revelatory book, Jonathan Tucker, a leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, chronicles the lethal history of chemical warfare from World War I to the present. At the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of synthetic chemistry made the large-scale use of toxic chemicals on the battlefield both feasible and cheap. Tucker explores the long d In this important and revelatory book, Jonathan Tucker, a leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, chronicles the lethal history of chemical warfare from World War I to the present. At the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of synthetic chemistry made the large-scale use of toxic chemicals on the battlefield both feasible and cheap. Tucker explores the long debate over the military utility and morality of chemical warfare, from the first chlorine gas attack at Ypres in 1915 to Hitler’s reluctance to use nerve agents (he believed, incorrectly, that the U.S. could retaliate in kind) to Saddam Hussein’s gassing of his own people, and concludes with the emergent threat of chemical terrorism. Moving beyond history to the twenty-first century, War of Nerves makes clear that we are at a crossroads that could lead either to the further spread of these weapons or to their ultimate abolition. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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In this important and revelatory book, Jonathan Tucker, a leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, chronicles the lethal history of chemical warfare from World War I to the present. At the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of synthetic chemistry made the large-scale use of toxic chemicals on the battlefield both feasible and cheap. Tucker explores the long d In this important and revelatory book, Jonathan Tucker, a leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, chronicles the lethal history of chemical warfare from World War I to the present. At the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of synthetic chemistry made the large-scale use of toxic chemicals on the battlefield both feasible and cheap. Tucker explores the long debate over the military utility and morality of chemical warfare, from the first chlorine gas attack at Ypres in 1915 to Hitler’s reluctance to use nerve agents (he believed, incorrectly, that the U.S. could retaliate in kind) to Saddam Hussein’s gassing of his own people, and concludes with the emergent threat of chemical terrorism. Moving beyond history to the twenty-first century, War of Nerves makes clear that we are at a crossroads that could lead either to the further spread of these weapons or to their ultimate abolition. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda

  1. 5 out of 5

    Viktor

    Excellent narrative which spans the entire history of chemical warfare, from its beginnings in WWI (we just passed the 100th anniversary in April) to the modern day terrorist threat. The book is extremely detailed - even from a chemistry standpoint - which may discourage some readers, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about modern warfare and politics. I believe the author does well at remaining objective throughout the book, although at times he does seem to appro Excellent narrative which spans the entire history of chemical warfare, from its beginnings in WWI (we just passed the 100th anniversary in April) to the modern day terrorist threat. The book is extremely detailed - even from a chemistry standpoint - which may discourage some readers, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about modern warfare and politics. I believe the author does well at remaining objective throughout the book, although at times he does seem to approach the issue of chemical warfare from a moral and ethical, black and white stance, which it clearly is not - there are many shades of gray to the argument.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    If you've branched Chem Corps in the military -- its an Ok read. I think it focuses a little bit too much on the R&D and then the demilitarization side, and not so much on the "what were chemical soldiers doing at the time" side, but its still a good history lesson. Probably really boring to anybody else. If you've branched Chem Corps in the military -- its an Ok read. I think it focuses a little bit too much on the R&D and then the demilitarization side, and not so much on the "what were chemical soldiers doing at the time" side, but its still a good history lesson. Probably really boring to anybody else.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

    A comprehensive military history of chemical weapons from their root in WWI through 2006, War of Nerves does a fantastic job of illustrating how organizational imperatives and domestic politics play just as strong of role in weapon development programs as does defined military need or strategic imperatives. Tucker is by no means polemical, but he does convey that the meta-argument over deterrence often had little connection at best to military requirements, preparedness, and technical constraint A comprehensive military history of chemical weapons from their root in WWI through 2006, War of Nerves does a fantastic job of illustrating how organizational imperatives and domestic politics play just as strong of role in weapon development programs as does defined military need or strategic imperatives. Tucker is by no means polemical, but he does convey that the meta-argument over deterrence often had little connection at best to military requirements, preparedness, and technical constraints. However, he also illustrates how close several states were to CW deployment as part of a broad conventional campaign, most strikingly Nazi Germany in 1945, combatant Arab states during the 1973 war with Israel, and Iraq in 1991. Tucker argues that in each case awareness of asymmetrical capabilities (especially inability to protect their own populations from retaliation) prevented otherwise logical CW use for military purposes. If you accept that argument (which Tucker does not flesh out with much sourcing or research of his own) then he does an insufficient job of pivoting in the last chapter in support of the CWC and the existence of norms as the best tool to prevent future CW use. I’m not taking a position on either side, but rather noting Tucker’s meticulous evidence itself undermines what appear in the last chapter to be his policy preferences. This is a highly relevant book to frame the pervasive use of chemical weapons in Syria today as the international community stands by, unable or unwilling to enforce the norm. It is reminiscent of the Italian use of CW against Abyssinia as the League of Nations wrung its hands, a historical analogy that should deeply worry anyone concerned over the stability of today’s international system.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nuno

    This book provides an overview on the history of chemical weapons development and use. The book is initially more focused on the development of chemical weapons and their chemistry - though not to a great detail -, and the more contemporary uses of chemical weapons are analysed mostly from a political perspective. In the end, there is an interesting epilogue dealing with the elimination of chemical weapons. I would recommend reading this book immediately after or before reading "Toxic" by Dan Ka This book provides an overview on the history of chemical weapons development and use. The book is initially more focused on the development of chemical weapons and their chemistry - though not to a great detail -, and the more contemporary uses of chemical weapons are analysed mostly from a political perspective. In the end, there is an interesting epilogue dealing with the elimination of chemical weapons. I would recommend reading this book immediately after or before reading "Toxic" by Dan Kaszeta. Many of the topics are repeated, but I actually found that advnatageous because it increases retention of information.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Enrique

    This book provides a good comprehensive overview of the development and use of chemical weapons staring with World War One. For anyone that studies weapons of mass destruction this book is a must have.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    An excellent top-down telling of chemical weapon warfare from 1914 to 2007. Easy to read, extremely compelling, and smart enough to let the reader decide, this was a non fiction book i could power through without getting too mentally exhausted. There is some chemistry, but you arent required to have prior knowledge. Chemical weaponry has an interesting history in that its been partially decommissioned - far further in arms reduction than nuclear. Some parts of the title are covered in much more d An excellent top-down telling of chemical weapon warfare from 1914 to 2007. Easy to read, extremely compelling, and smart enough to let the reader decide, this was a non fiction book i could power through without getting too mentally exhausted. There is some chemistry, but you arent required to have prior knowledge. Chemical weaponry has an interesting history in that its been partially decommissioned - far further in arms reduction than nuclear. Some parts of the title are covered in much more detail to than others, and while i can understand certain events have less to write about, I would have preferred a wider scope. He focuses only on the main weapons specifically developed to militarize for the purposes of killing . Agent Orange and environmental chemicals are only briefly mentioned - I felt the author minimized the destructiveness of agent orange in the way he presented. Police agents such as tear gas or incapacitating gasses are not mentioned. Frustatingly, Tucker retells an incident of how Russian military pumped narcotic gasses to end a hostage situation - without going into more detail about that wider class of substances. I particularly enjoyed the part about the Japanese Cult gas attacks, as well as world war II. I think theres a lot more here than the small view we got - which is largely from a cold war perspective. Beggars cant be choosers - this is the best book out there on chemical weapons.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This was an excellent history of the use of chemical weapons throughout the world in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. As a work of history, this book is extremely detailed and shows an in-depth picture of how chemical weapons have been used by both governments and on-state actors from World War I to the present day. However, one flaw in the book is the author's argument that existing international norms against chemical weapons be enforced further, and that more agreements be establ This was an excellent history of the use of chemical weapons throughout the world in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. As a work of history, this book is extremely detailed and shows an in-depth picture of how chemical weapons have been used by both governments and on-state actors from World War I to the present day. However, one flaw in the book is the author's argument that existing international norms against chemical weapons be enforced further, and that more agreements be established to prevent their use. This is no guarantee of non-use even by governments that are signatories to such agreements. However, in spite of the flawed argument, this was an excellent, informative work of history that is recommended to anyone who wishes to learn more about the topic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pooja Kashyap

    One of the best book on chemical warfare, giving glimpse on 2003 Iraq War and the current threat of chemical terrorism. These super toxic poisons have no peaceful uses, they must not have been created in the first place. Tucker is trying his best by presenting the never ending ill effects of these nerve racking agents but unfortunately the governments do not seem to be getting much wiser.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Excellent book- I would highly recommend this book this to anyone seeking a knowledge base in chemical warfare or really anyone interested in military history. Very well-written

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nguyen Nguyen

  11. 5 out of 5

    Narf218

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hoss

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sergey

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paige

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Clarke

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura Huggins

  18. 4 out of 5

    Madison Riley

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

  20. 4 out of 5

    Annabelle Towle

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tim Kisil

  22. 5 out of 5

    James Tiplady

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kuniko

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kaileigh Donlon

  25. 4 out of 5

    90sr

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matthew B McKnight

  27. 5 out of 5

    Francesco

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cristhian

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Eng

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