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REVIEW: _With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War_

Matthew Clark — October 1983

By Robert Scheer. Random House.

Reviewed by Matthew Clark

This book scares me. Robert Scheer demonstrates that a number of highly-placed and influential figures in the Reagan administration are so reckless and so stupid that they just might start a nuclear war.

These people believe that the Soviet Union is the source of all unrest in the’ world today; they also believe that the U.S. has the right and the duty not just to contain Soviet influence, but actually to force changes in the Soviet government. They believe that the U.S. should be prepared to risk nuclear war, or even to start it. They believe that the U .S. could win a nuclear war; they believe that U.S. deaths could be held down to an “acceptable” 20 million; and they believe that after the war, everything could be rebuilt in two to four years.

No subtle academic analysis is required to show that the Reaganites believe all this nonsense Scheer simply quotes them. For example, Reagan himself said that

“the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on. If they weren’t engaged in this game of dominoes, there wouldn’t be any hot spots in the world.”

Richard Pipes, a member of the National Security Council, said that “Soviet leaders would have to choose between peacefully changing their Communist system … or going to war. It

Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, said: “I’ve always worried less about what would happen in an actual nuclear exchange than the effect that the nuclear balance has on our willingness to take risks in local situations.” And T.K. Jones, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Strategic and Theatre Nuclear Forces, has a civil defense plan: “If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.” He suggests that you dig a hole and then cover it with a couple of doors and three feet of dirt.

It’s easy to poke holes in such idiocy, and Scheer provides the counterquotes. Senator Alan Cranston (now running for the Democratic presidential nomination) said that Reagan’s comment was “the greatest oversimplification I’ve ever encountered regarding the threat by the Soviet Union to the United States.” Cranston goes on to mention other causes of unrest, such as overpopulation, poverty, misery, hunger, nationalistic feuds; and environmental threats.

I could go on quoting — With Enough Shovels is a treasury of material. I have but one complaint. Scheer is right about his villains, but I’m not sure about his heroes — the liberal Democrats. He seems to forget that these are the people who brought us the Cuban missile crisis and the war in Vietnam. Certainly Reagan and his crowd are an immediate and extremely serious danger — they must be replaced. But the real problem demands a solution more radical than any establishment party is likely to provide.