The Third World War by Sir John Winthrop Hacket

For any reader who's contemplated even for a moment the horror of another global war, 'The Third World War' is a sobering book and informative experience. 

Over 6,200 paperbacks line shelves in my apartment. My wife is an artist, and uses our apartment as her gallery. There was a fight for wall space and I recently lost a skirmish. My solution was logical. Consolidate and toss books that I have read which honestly I think is about 500 - 600. Part of my cathartic process is to write a quick review of the books I remember. Sometimes a quick skim ignites a memory of something particular I liked about the book. The Third World War by Sir John Winthrop Hacket was a sort of alternate reality novel, I remember reading in 1986 as a freshman in college. I must say there are some very detailed sections of, military briefings that can be skimmed through with no real impact. It seems still relevant these days with such uncertainty in American ideology and political stability.

 The time is 1984. The Republican candidate for President, 'Governor Thompson,' who will defeat Walter Mondale in the election, is overhead on an open TV mike as he promises U.S. support for an uprising in Poland.

Thus is triggered a series of events that culminates on August 4, 1985 in World War III. How and why the war is fought are the questions answered by General Sir John Hackett and his co-authors. Hackett is a distinguished and scholarly British military man, retired commander of the NATO Northern Army Group. His book is billed as a novel but reads like an extended and totally authentic War College briefing book stuffed to the muzzle with acronyms and the bureaucratese that are as much a part of military life as polished shoes and the belief that war is a science.

Sir John Winthrop Hacket's Third World War

Nevertheless, for any reader who's contemplated even for a moment the horror of another global war, this book is a sobering and informative experience. It is remarkably realistic, made so not by the dramatizing of people and situations in a novelistic fashion, but through numerous 'documents'-U.S. 'think tank' reports, 'captured' Soviet memoranda, transcripts of high-level conversations, and contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts of battles.

The war itself lasts for one month, results in NATO victory, the breakup of the then Soviet empire and a new North-South alignment of nations. What about nuclear weapons. As Hackett sees it, both sides will use tactical nukes but holdback from all out nuclear war. There is one nuclear missile exchange: The Russians vaporize Birmingham, England, NATO retaliates by wasting Minsk.

Russian Aggressiveness

The book was a bestseller in England in 1985, provoking hot debate over the capabilities of NATO, which fulfilled the authors' acknowledged intention to point up the current excessive buildup of forces by the Soviet Union, in the hope that the West will strengthen its defenses. In an era where America has its first election potentially influenced by Russian hackers, looking back on it, perception of Russian aggressiveness has not changed much in the 21st century.

Perhaps the most threatening result of reading The Third World War is the overwhelming impression that, no matter how destructive and technologically advanced weapons become, military men continue to insist, as they always have, that war is a controllable force-even, in a sense, a rational activity. This is a conclusion that, for one reader at least, is clouded by visions of a burnt out planet littered with the remnants of a culture that was so close to uniting through common beliefs yet destroyed by those who would look to exploit our differences.

Now Reading
The Third World War by Sir John Winthrop Hacket