FROM MAD TO MADNESS: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning

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This deathbed memoir by Dr. Paul H. Johnstone, former senior analyst in the Strategic Weapons Evaluation Group (WSEG) in the Pentagon and a co-author of The Pentagon Papers, provides an authoritative analysis of the implications of nuclear war that remain insurmountable today. Indeed, such research has been kept largely secret, with the intention “not to alarm the public” about what was being cooked up.

“From MAD to Madness could not be more timely reading. In it, a former senior Pentagon analyst from the last Cold War comes back from the past to warn us of the disaster we are courting in the new Cold War. We should heed his warning.”
— Ron Paul, M.D.Former Member of Congress (R-TX)

 

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SYNOPSIS

This deathbed memoir by Dr. Paul H. Johnstone, former senior analyst in the Strategic Weapons Evaluation Group (WSEG) in the Pentagon and a co-author of The Pentagon Papers, provides an authoritative analysis of the implications of nuclear war that remain insurmountable today. Indeed, such research has been kept largely secret, with the intention “not to alarm the public” about what was being cooked up.

This is the story of how U.S. strategic planners in the 1950s and 1960s worked their way to the conclusion that nuclear war was unthinkable. It drives home these key understandings:

  • That whichever way you look at it — and this book shows the many ways analysts tried to skirt the problem — nuclear war means mutual destruction
  • That Pentagon planners could accept the possibility of totally destroying another nation, while taking massive destructive losses ourselves, and still conclude that “we would prevail”.
  • That the supposedly “scientific answers” provided to a wide range of unanswerable questions are of highly dubious standing.
  • That official spheres neglect anything near a comparable effort to understand the “enemy” point of view, rather than to annihilate him, or to use such understanding to make peace.

Dr. Johnstone’s memoirs of twenty years in the Pentagon tell that story succinctly, coolly and objectively. He largely lets the facts speak for themselves, while commenting on the influence of the Cold War spirit of the times and its influence on decision-makers.

Johnstone writes: “Theorizing about nuclear war was a sort of virtuoso exercise in creating an imaginary world wherein all statements must be consistent with each other, but nothing need be consistent with reality because there was no reality to be checked against.”

While remaining highly secret – so much so that Dr. Johnstone himself was denied access to what he had written – these studies had a major impact on official policy. They contributed to a shift from the notion that the United States could inflict “massive retaliation” on its Soviet enemy to recognition that a nuclear exchange would bring about Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

The alarming truth today is that these lessons seem to have been forgotten in Washington, just as United States policy has become as hostile to Russia as it was toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. U.S. foreign policy is pursuing hostile encirclement of two major nuclear powers, Russia and China. Without public debate, apparently without much of any public interest, the United States is preparing to allocate a trillion dollars over the next thirty years to modernize its entire nuclear arsenal. It is as if all that was once understood about the danger of nuclear war has been forgotten.

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Author

Diana Johnstone,

Paul H. Johnstone

Reviews

7 reviews for FROM MAD TO MADNESS: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning

  1. Ron Paul

    “From MAD to Madness could not be more timely reading. In it, a former senior Pentagon analyst from the last Cold War comes back from the past to warn us of the disaster we are courting in the new Cold War. We should heed his warning.”
    Ron Paul, M.D.Former Member of Congress (R-TX)

  2. DR.JAN OBERG

    “In spite of being vastly superior to any other power on our beautiful globe, the United States insists that it needs to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on updating its nuclear triad and increase research and production of even more doomsday bombs.

    Today, over 100 countries are pushing for a treaty to ban these weapons once and for all. There exists no imaginable political goal that can justify the killings of millions of people; nuclear possession, nuclear threats and nuclear (first) use is criminal and the so-called balance of terror is just that: terrorism, terrorism so much bigger than any Al-Qaeda or ISIL.

    This book tells you just why and how people in these murky buildings have gone MAD and continue the madness inside institutions that defy democratic transparency and in which the people live in their own world. Not without reason does MAD also stand for Mutually Assured Destruction: Omnicide!

    Dr. Paul H. Johnstone’s amazing insider account should be enough to make everyone on earth demand total abolition. His daughter’s framing of this uniquely important piece of contemporary history is brilliantly written, thanks to her own immense knowledge and devotion to a moral, peaceful world.

    This book deserves the largest possible readership worldwide. Translate it! Let it enter every relevant university course! And let it be used to nonviolently force the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) to surrender. After all, in the name of civilisation, humanity has abolished cannibalism, slavery, absolute monarchy and child labour.

    It’s time to end the nuclear era. A nuclear-free world is possible. A MAD world is not.”

    DR.JAN OBERG
    Director, Transnational Foundation

  3. GARETH PORTER

    From MAD to Madness is a revealing memoir on how the Pentagon tried to turn its essentially unusable nuclear arsenal into a normal policy instrument in the early Cold War period by an insider of singular integrity and independence of mind. Paul Johnstone’s insights into the workings of the war planning system are still valuable to understanding that system more than six decades later.”
    GARETH PORTER

  4. DAVID SWANSON

    “In From MAD to Madness, Paul Johnstone depicts the thinking inside the Pentagon in years gone by from the perspective of someone who was there — and the thinking is sheer insanity … This ought to make us stop, think, and perhaps panic just a little. Johnstone has done us a service. Any exposure of how war makers actually talk and think is a blow to the pretense that war is justifiable or inevitable. This may be the
    smartest way to be a Pentagon whistleblower: posthumously. No prison. No demonization. But as valuable insights into the workings of the war machine as more recent whistleblowers have provided.”
    DAVID SWANSON, author of War Is A Lie

  5. EDWARD S. HERMAN

    From MAD to Madness is a detailed, enlightening and frightening record of Pentagon Nuclear War Planning based on 20 years of inside experience by Paul H. Johnstone. In excellent background and updating accounts Diana Johnstone shows that no lessons have been learned from earlier mishaps and near misses; that with its new aggressiveness and upgrading of nuclear weapons the U.S. political class has opened a new round of nuclear madness.”
    EDWARD S. HERMAN

  6. JOAN ROELOFF

    “In this book Diana has finally published his “Memoir of a Humanist in the Pentagon,” along with her added commentary and a foreword by Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts expresses in a nutshell the contemporary horrific relevance of the book: “The neoconservatives in pursuit of their goal of US world hegemony have resurrected the possibility of nuclear war. The neocons have taken us from MAD to madness.”…Johnstone’s sober prediction in From MAD to Madness: “there can be no victor in a nuclear war” must be given priority by the newly-awakened activists.”
    JOAN ROELOFF, Counterpunch

  7. JOHN W. WALSH

    “a book of considerable importance for the moment. It warns us of the perilous age in which we live, and it tells us that the need to create a structure of peace in a multipolar world is urgent.”
    JOHN W. WALSH, antiwar.com

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