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This book will particularly appeal to those who enjoyed Blind Man's Bluff, as it offers the other side of the story. Notorious events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the disasters aboard K-19 and Kursk, etc., are covered well and in exciting fashion. But it's also worthwhile reading for anyone who thinks the intelligence failures of the recent Iraq war were unusual or unusually wide of the mark. There are essentially three themes of interest that emerge in the book: first, that despite the presence of some brave and dedicated sailors in the Soviet submarine service there was too much corruption, incompetence, and politicization for it to be a truly effective fighting force; second, because of the inevitable shortcomings of any communist economy and industrial system, the equipment they had to work with was almost always inferior, usually quite dangerous to the men on board; and, third, despite these factors the Soviet leadership left decisions of world historical importance, like whether to use nuclear weapons, in the hands of submarine commanders at various key points in the Cold War. What you had then was a situation where we feared the wrong thing--an imagined threat from a supposedly significant Soviet war machine, but were also confident about the wrong thing, that the U.S.S.R. would fear the outbreak of war, perhaps nuclear war, as much as we and would therefore keep a tight rein on its military. In effect, the overall danger from the Soviet sub fleet was overstated, while the danger that particular incidents might be extraordinarily dangerous was underestimated. Perhaps this passage from the book may serve as the epitaph for the entire Soviet submarine experience:
The rush both to compete with the United States and to develop a navy whose global reach would enhance Soviet power and confirm the validity of Russian communist dogma led to shortcuts, flawed plans, dangerously accelerated technological development, and the priority of politics over safety and lives. Russian naval personnel and their families paid dearly to confirm the validity of an empty Soviet dream.
Mr. Weir and Mr. Boyne helpfully restore the memory of the personnel who paid the price but leave no doubt that their sacrifice was pointless even from a Soviet perspective.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Walter Boyne Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Flying with Walter Boyne
    -A BIOGRAPHY Of WALTER J. BOYNE (Wings Over Kansas)
    -REVIEW: of Operation Iraqi Freedom by Col. Walter J. Boyne (Tim O'Bryhim, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of BEYOND THE WILD BLUE: A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-1997. By Walter J. Boyne (RUSSELL F. WEIGLEY, NY Times Book Review)

Book-related and General Links:

    -REVIEW: of THE SUBMARINE: A History By Thomas Parrish (Douglas Porchm Washington Post)