MY JOURNEY at the NUCLEAR BRINK
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink is William J. Perry's latest effort to keep the world safe from a nuclear catastrophe. It tells the story of his coming of age in the nuclear era, his role in trying to shape and contain it, and how his thinking has changed about the threat these weapons pose
In a remarkable career, Perry has dealt firsthand with the changing nuclear threat. Decades of experience and special access to top-secret knowledge of strategic nuclear options have given Perry a unique, and chilling, vantage point from which to conclude that nuclear weapons endanger our security rather than securing it.
This book traces his thought process as he journeys from the Cuban Missile Crisis, to crafting a defense strategy in the Carter Administration to offset the Soviets' numeric superiority in conventional forces, to presiding over the dismantling of more than 8,000 nuclear weapons in the Clinton Administration, and to his creation in 2007, with George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and Henry Kissinger, of the Nuclear Security Project to articulate their vision of a world free from nuclear weapons and to lay out the urgent steps needed to reduce nuclear dangers.
an Excerpt from the book
My phone rang on a beautiful fall day in 1962, just a week after I had celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday. I was the director of Sylvania's Electronic Defense Laboratories, which pioneered in sophisticated electronic reconnaissance systems directed at Soviet nuclear weapons systems. I was living with my wife, Lee, and our five children in a beautiful home in Palo Alto, California, near the picturesque San Francisco Bay. Life was good. But it was about to be turned upside-down
The phone call was from Albert "Bud" Wheelon, my colleague on high-level government panels to assess Soviet nuclear capabilities. Wheelon, also in his thirties, was the youngest-ever head of the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence, as well as chairman of the Guided Missile and Astronautics Intelligence Committee (GMAIC), an expert group reviewing all intelligence on the Soviet missile and space programs. He asked me to fly to Washington to consult with him, and I told him that I would rearrange my schedule and fly back the following week. "No" he said, "I need to see you right away." His sense of urgency alarmed me. Our country was deep in a spiraling nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, which just the previous year had broken the nuclear test ban to detonate their "monster" 50-megaton bomb. I took the night flight to Washington, D.C., and met him the next morning.
Without a word of explanation he showed me photos of what I quickly recognized as Soviet missiles in Cuba. My instant reaction was dread. It was all too clear that this deployment could be the catalyst to trigger a nuclear exchange between the United States and the USSR. My study of nuclear effects told me that such an exchange could bring about the end of civilization.