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Reviewing The Unthinkable

August 20, 1989

Russell Jacoby skipped a bit breezily over some weighty arguments in the nuclear books he reviewed (Book Review, July 2), and in the process he contradicted himself. If Jeff Smith's "Unthinking the Unthinkable" critiques Jonathan Schell, for instance--and Jacoby never says the critique is wrong--how could it be taking on "straw men"? Schell has had massive influence in anti-nuclear circles, and an anti-nuclear book that points out his naivete would seem to be boldly risking the loss of its principal audience.

Also, Jacoby rhetorically asks, "who today believes in . . . the ethical purity of the state"? Answer: just about everyone. The same week Jacoby's review appeared, the news was full of talk of constitutional maneuvers to criminalize the burning of the flag. The state (and people's almost mystical belief in it) isn't a straw man; it's Conan the Barbarian, but without the high morals.

ALAN GOODMAN

WEST LOS ANGELES

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