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Tuesday, July 24

Nuclear Terrorism

This is in response to Walt's post below re nuclear weapons. He is right - you cannot put the genie back in the bottle. Nuclear power seems to be here to stay. It is not inevitable that nuclear weapons will lead to Armageddon, however, although it is likely.

I read Nuclear Terrorism by Graham Allison a couple of years ago and do not remember all the details. I suggest it be read by anyone concerned about this issue. Allison spends the first part of the book outlining who could be planning a nuclear terrorist attack, where they could get the material, and how they could deliver it. The second half explains exactly how to prevent this from happening. Along the way he is scathing about the Bush administration's handling of foreign policy and our reputation in the world, both vital components in preventing a catastrophe. I quote from the book, "As one disillusioned State Department official wrote in a letter of resignation in February 2003, the administration seemed to have adopted the Roman emperor Caligula's dictum Oderint dum metuant: 'Let them hate as long as they fear.' "

This is a quote from The Boston Globe on the back cover: "In this urgent call to action, Graham Allison, one of America's leading experts on nuclear weapons and national security, presents the evidence for two provocative, compelling conclusions. First, if policy makers in Washington keep doing what they are currently doing about the threat, a nuclear terrorist attack on America is inevitable. Second, the surprising and largely unrecognized good news is that nuclear terrorism is, in fact, preventable. Allison offers an ambitious but feasible blueprint for eliminating the possibility of nuclear terrorist attacks, if we are willing to face the issue squarely." Of course, that last sentence is a big 'if'.

Here is one of the more amusing observations by Allison, of which there are many, on Bush and company: "The most memorable foreign policy line from the the 2000 campaign came from candidate George W. Bush, who called for the United States to conduct a 'humble foreign policy.' He said, 'If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us, but if we are a humble nation, but strong, they will welcome us.' Unfortunately, either the president forgot his advice or he did not mean it. Vice President Cheney and other members of the administration evidently never heard it, or never agreed."

This is what I consider a required book nowadays. It is available in paperback.

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