(Dr Jeffery Lewis, Penguin RandomHouse, 2018)
I first heard of this book from a friend and fellow student of International Relations earlier this year. Thank you Grace L.!
Now I know that Nuclear Non-Proliferation is not a topic that the average adult finds interesting, however I find it one of the most important topics in global politics and discourse. It is a problem that can only be solved through international cooperation. One of the few problems humanity faces presently that has the potential to wipe human kind off the face of the planet. This is the urgency that Dr Jeffrey Lewis does his best to underline in the 2020 Commission report.
Written as speculative fiction, writing from the year 2023, the commission charged with evaluating the events that lead up the devastating nuclear attacks against the United States, presents its findings.
The story begins within the context of the annual war games held over several weeks by the United States and South Korea in the spring of 2020. These events make the North Korean military quite nervous and leads to an accidental shoot down of a passenger airliner. From here the chain of events begin to spiral out of control until the worst case scenario comes to pass. I don’t want to spoil the details, but it was certainly a captivating read.
What I value most in this book is Dr Lewis’ attention to detail. The above mentioned nervousness due to war-gaming and large scale exercises is not a matter of fiction. The NATO Able Archer exercise of 1983 had the Soviet Union on the brink of starting a nuclear war.
Other details such as some of the eye witness accounts that mirrored those of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really bring this work to life. Furthermore Lewis expertly adds the layer of complexity that is government and intergovernmental communication and maneuvering to much of the events. It is through this lens that understanding how such a situation could develop and snowball out of control becomes frighteningly plausible.
Although the 2020 Commission might not be for everyone, the narrative manner in which it is written as well as its attention to detail makes it a good read for anyone interested in the politics of non-proliferation, speculative fiction and the urgency of nuclear disarmament.