How Many Fingers on the Button?

Too many, as a new novel called State Scarlet points out

Tensions escalate. The military goes on alert. A Soviet-American showdown seems probable. When a nuclear attack upon the U.S. is considered imminent, authority to use nuclear weapons is automatically "predelegated" to various military commanders. For a nation that mistakenly assumes only the President's finger is ever on the button, this little-known fact will come as a disconcerting discovery. In his first novel, State Scarlet (Putnam; $18.95), David Aaron, a top staffer at the National Security Council during the Carter Administration, uses fiction to show how the nation's command, control and communications system, known as C 3, could spin out of control...

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