No. 36




The Nuclear Age. Introduction to the translation of Chapter 24 “The Nuclear Age” from “A Concise History of Warfare” * by Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery

07 December 2017


RiTo No. 36, 2017

In the same way as we have seen the arrival of the Internet, and how it essentially changed the existing way of communicating and even the relations between the people, the hero of World War II Marshal Montgomery saw the arrival of weapons of mass destruction, their use, and how it essentially changed the existing international security situation. This was one reason why I thought it was important to introduce the readers of Riigikogu Toimetised one chapter from his book A Concise History of Warfare. This chapter, The Nuclear Age, deals with the coming of nuclear age, and its fruits.

The second reason relates to the present time. It may seem unexpected to the people who have survived the Cold War, but in recent years, using of (tactical) nuclear weapons not only as deterrence, but as a real weapon on the field of war has again been spoken about. There are rumours that Russia has practised tactical nuclear strikes against the Nordic Countries and the NATO states, and Donald Trump has not excluded using nuclear weapon in the case of military solution of the Korean crisis.

This causes anxiety not only among the ordinary citizens. In November this year, the US Senate for the first time in several decades discussed the issue of how the possibilities of the President to decide over giving nuclear strikes had been organised. In the opinion of some senators, this procedure is too simple, and thus depends too much on one person, although it should be an objective and not a subjective resolution.

Therefore it is justified to cast a glance into the final years of the 1960s (or after the Caribbean Crisis), when Marshal Montgomery wrote his book A Concise History of Warfare. As a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Montgomery had a good command of writing and was capable of a historical excursion into the methods of warfare since the dawn of humanity. For the above-mentioned reasons, one of the last chapters of the book, tiled The Nuclear Age, could be of interest to us. It develops from a historical survey into an essay where personal experience and reflections over the challenges of the nuclear age are dealt with, and also includes discussions over warfare in the future – it may interesting to read all this, because for us, this future has become the past.

Not only iron and modern technology decide the outcome of a war. Let us think of Marshal Montgomery’s words: “Once morale has gone, defeat is inevitable.”

* Montgomery, B. L. (1968). A Concise History of Warfare. UK: George Rainbird Ltd.