Monday, Nov. 30, 2009
Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Michael D. Gordin
Government secrecy-intelligence is one theme of Red Cloud at Dawn, illustrated through the dangerous games the United States and the U.S.S.R. played over the advent of the atom bomb. The conclusion by Princeton history professor Michael D. Gordin is that American intelligence was bad and the Russians did a better job of finding what they needed, through spies and careful analysis of open sources. Feeling the tug of democracy, the United States published many details of its atomic project, not enough to build a bomb yet sufficient to provide a highly organized state with a general blueprint. Gordin has a good understanding of the duplicitous world of espionage (“Knowing that you are not supposed to know something is often as valuable as knowing what it is”). The author also addresses the complexity of constructing an atom bomb, a task whose high hurdles have slowed (but not stopped) the proliferation of nuclear weapons.