three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-NuclearTerrorismThe way we’re headed, "a nuclear terrorist attack on America in the decade ahead is more likely than not." Allison, founding dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and leading expert on national security, argues that once terrorists acquire a bomb, they’re nearly impossible to stop. But, there’s a silver lining: we can prevent nuclear terrorism with "humble" American foreign policies (read: no gratuitous wars) and government control over uranium and plutonium supplies. "No fissile material, no nuclear weapon, no nuclear terror. It’s that simple." Allison covers issues ranging from nuclear technology to access to atomic bombs, border security, the rise of nuclear-weapons nations, and the crucial U.S. role in building a world alliance against terrorism. "We do not have the luxury," he concludes, "of hoping the beast will simply go away."
Times Books/Henry Holt. 263 pages. $24. ISBN: 0805076514

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"In an era of color-coded terror alerts and rigorous security checks, Allison provides a rare dose of alarmism well informed. … [I]f there ever were a nuclear attack in America, Allison’s supply-side focus would look awfully pragmatic the day after." Jai Singh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"A paragraph describes a small, easily deliverable weapon that, if set off in New York’s Times Square—according to him, not that hard to do—would generate temperatures in the tens of millions of degrees Fahrenheit and produce a fireball and blast wave that would fry New York’s theater district, the New York Times building, Grand Central Terminal, the Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall, the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden. … The book is an absolute ‘must’ read." Dan Simpson

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Allison’s other remedies—like imposing intrusive nuclear power plant inspections and sanctioning violators—may also prove difficult to implement in the real world of suspicious governments and corrupt officials. … [His] comprehensive but accessible treatment of this vital subject is a major contribution to public understanding." James Hoge

San Francisco Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"On the first ‘no’ (‘no loose nukes’), Allison is utterly persuasive. … Yet although he excoriates the Bush administration for its invasion of Iraq—which, among other things, ‘discredited the larger case for a serious campaign to prevent nuclear terrorism’—it is hard to see how his own approach would lead to markedly different results." Garrick Mason

Critical Summary

Chemical weapons can kill in the thousands. Over the same area, a football-sized nuclear packet could kill half a million. With Iran and North Korea joining the fray, Russia’s massive supplies, and Pakistan’s black market, we’re in Big Trouble. Allison, who served under the first Clinton administration, models his argument on the successful Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program he helped implement when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nuclear Terrorism, well-written, lucid, and above all horrifying, offers a blueprint for preventing nuclear terrorism. Reviewers generally agree with Allison’s points, but ask how he would implement his goals in politically diverse climates. How does one conduct nuclear power plant inspections with corrupt officials, for example? Allison himself admits that his plan will take a "long, hard, slog"—one that seems necessary.

Also by the author

Essence of Decision Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis | Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow (2nd ed. 1972): Now in its second edition, this political science work is considered the definitive history of the crucial event of the Cold War. It asks the timeless question: how should we interpret government actions?