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The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States

By Andrew Lovett-Barron
Published in Reading
May 25, 2021
1 min read

I have a deep love for good speculative fiction (World War Z being another incredible example), so this book is high on my list. Originally published in August 2018, it was written at the height of the anxiety over Trump’s White House bumbling around North Korea. Jeffrey Lewis is a well-known nuclear deterrence researcher out of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and author of ArmsControlWonk, a blog I’ve somewhat passively followed for years. So from a subject matter perspective, he’d probably be one of the folks called upon to write the 9/11 commission report of a nuclear exchange between North Korea against South Korea and the United States. So. You know. Why not do a dry run?

It’s a pretty short book, modelled as a kind of middle space between the 9/11 commission report and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower. But it was devastating at the time — in a similar, but different way to The Premonition by Michael Lewis. While Michael Lewis’ work was reflective of a crisis mismanaged, Jeffrey Lewis’ was on what we might fear from a crisis in potentia. I’m generally an anxious person when it comes to certain geopolitical security issues — nuclear weapons, our inevitable climate collapse and migration crisis, biosecurity — so this book was both weirdly cathartic and really did nothing good for my sense of wellbeing.

That said, I enjoyed it immensely and have re-read it since. Experts like Jeffrey Lewis making their insight and awareness accessible through speculative fiction is an incredible way of accessing domains of knowledge, that are usually so esoteric as to be completely closed off. But Lewis is a great writer and engaging writer (probably thanks to all that blogging), so takes great steps in making it work.


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Andrew Lovett-Barron

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