Maj. Gen. William F. Burns knew the possibility of nuclear catastrophe better than most. As a young Army officer in Germany during the height of the Cold War, he commanded a unit armed with nuclear weapons. He saw firsthand the many possible ways a conflict might escalate out of control, perhaps through misinformation or miscalculation, with disastrous and unintended consequences. He also knew the dangers of ill-conceived military conflicts, having fought in Vietnam.
These were lessons that drove him to work for the rest of his life in a variety of different ways to reduce the risk of nuclear war. Burns died earlier this month at the age of 88.
The above excerpt was originally published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
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