The Doomsday Machine Book Summary - The Doomsday Machine Book explained in key points
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The Doomsday Machine summary

Daniel Ellsberg

Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

4.4 (47 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg is a memoir about his time working for the US military and his account of the danger posed by nuclear weapons. He reveals some shocking truths about the nuclear arms race and the risks to global security.

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    The Doomsday Machine
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    The first city bombings and mass murder of civilians took place in the 1930s.

    How did the Cold War’s threat of nuclear war get to the point that it spelled the possible end of the entire human race? The answer lies with the warmongers of the 1930s.

    Before strategic bombing - a specific attack on city centers with the aim of killing the most civilians possible as a means of dismantling the enemy’s economy and society – civilians were, for the most part, kept out of harm’s way during the European wars. This was outlined by the dogma of just war, which stipulated that innocent civilians should not be purposefully targeted in warfare.

    The key aspect that led to the rise of strategic bombing was the rapid advancement of aircraft technology.

    By the early 1930s, aircraft could transport heavier cargo and travel further distances than ever before. These planes were able to fly over land obstacles and launch attacks on civilians, who, despite being non-combatants, were vital components of war.

    One example of strategic bombing is immortalized in Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica. It depicts the Italian and German air bombings of the Spanish city Guernica, which was an anti-fascist stronghold during the Spanish Civil War. It’s estimated that around 1,000 civilians died during the raid.

    Fast-forward to 1939 and the start of WWII. Although the US was not yet part of the war, President Roosevelt implored Germany, France and Great Britain not to attack city centers and kill innocent civilians. All three parties initially agreed to Roosevelt’s request; however, the pact was broken shortly thereafter.

    Germany was the first to infringe upon the agreement, with the bombing of British cities in 1940. The event became known as the Blitz and marked the death of over 40,000 civilians.

    In 1942, Britain launched their own raids of strategic bombing against civilians. Over the next three years, Great Britain’s air raids killed around 300,000 German civilians.

    The most devastating non-nuclear strategic bombing by number of deaths was in fact carried out by the United States. One night, in March 1945, aerial bombings on Tokyo resulted in the deaths of approximately 100,000 Japanese civilians.

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    What is The Doomsday Machine about?

    The Doomsday Machine (2017) follows famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on his journey from learning about nuclear bombs in school to rewriting the national security policy for the United States of America. It explores the use of nuclear systems throughout history and how close we came to ending the human race.

    The Doomsday Machine Review

    The Doomsday Machine (2017) by Daniel Ellsberg is a thought-provoking exposé on the dangers of nuclear weapons and the secrecy surrounding them. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It unveils the startling truth about the grave risks of nuclear war, providing a wake-up call that demands attention.
    • With first-hand accounts and insider information, the book sheds light on the hidden realities and political motivations behind nuclear policies.
    • Its meticulous research and compelling narrative make for an enthralling read, ensuring that the topic of nuclear weapons never becomes dull.

    Who should read The Doomsday Machine?

    • Modern history buffs with a particular interest in wars
    • International relations students
    • People interested in US nuclear strategy

    About the Author

    Daniel Ellsberg is an activist, whistleblower and former US military advisor. In 1971 he released the classified Pentagon Papers to the public, which detailed US efforts during the Vietnam War. He also wrote Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

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    The Doomsday Machine FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Doomsday Machine?

    The main message of The Doomsday Machine explores the dangers and risks associated with nuclear weapons.

    How long does it take to read The Doomsday Machine?

    The reading time for The Doomsday Machine varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Doomsday Machine a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Doomsday Machine is a thought-provoking book that provides valuable insights into the world of nuclear weapons. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Doomsday Machine?

    The author of The Doomsday Machine is Daniel Ellsberg.

    What to read after The Doomsday Machine?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Doomsday Machine, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Command and Control by Eric Schlosser
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    • Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford
    • The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma
    • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt
    • The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer