Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 14, 2012

Nuclear Terrorism: Are We Winning or Losing?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on May 14, 2012

As regular readers of this blog know, we’ve hosted a robust back-and-forth regarding the risks of nuclear terrorism.  Along those lines, for those wishing to read a succinct and interesting summary of arguments for both sides, I would recommend a recent Arms Control Wonk post by Michael Krepon (please follow the link for a full bio, but the short version is: Co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center. Prior to co-founding the Stimson Center, Krepon worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Carter administration, and in the US House of Representatives, assisting Congressman Norm Dicks.)

He gives voice to those concerned about the threat:

Graham Allison predicted in Nuclear Terrorism (2004) that, “In my considered judgment, on the current path, a nuclear terrorist attack on America in the decade ahead is more likely than not.”

And those slightly more dismissive:

John Mueller’s answer, in Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (2010) is that nuclear dangers are far less than we presume:

Fears and anxieties about them, while understandable, have been excessive, and they have severely, detrimentally, and even absurdly distorted spending priorities while inspiring policies that have often been overwrought, ill conceived, counterproductive, and sometimes massively destructive. And they continue to do so.

It is not a long post, so I instead of continuing to post quotes in absence of my own analysis, I’ll just end with his conclusion:

Are we winning or losing the battle against proliferation? There are indicators that point in both directions. How you answer this question probably reflects your optimistic or pessimistic nature.

Again, if you’re interested in the topic (and proliferation in general, which he addresses in an earlier related post) it is worth your time:


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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 14, 2012 @ 2:18 am

Thanks for the links but at least after Lugar’s departure from the Senate we will know and care a lot less about nuclear proliferation. Thanks Tea Party for helping the forces of Darkness.

Comment by Alan Wolfe

May 14, 2012 @ 7:11 am

We are, in fact, winning the “war” on nuclear terrorism. We’re spending billions of dollars in preventive efforts every year across the whole of government, despite the lack of any terrorist to successfully get enough fissile material and despite any nuclear-weapon state’s failure of security protocols. As a result, we’ve lost the bubble on chemical and biological terrorism, both areas having much easier technologies and material access, but hey, nukes are sexy.

We still lack the ability to create a sound strategy for WMD terrorism that is both effecacious and affordable, one that might be developed with the principles of risk management. But one can dream.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2012 @ 1:27 am

Alan! To defang nuclear terrorism it would be necessary to defang the nuclear priesthood which is largely responsible for proliferation world wide since WWII! A new bio of IKE has some interesting details. Written by History Prof. Edward Jean Smith.

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