July 7, 2008
Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?
Brian Michael Jenkins, foreword by Sen. Gary Hart. Prometheus, $26.95 (410p) ISBN 978-1-59102-656-3
A leading expert on terrorism and a senior adviser at the RAND Corporation, Jenkins (Unconquerable Nation) addresses the contentious issue of nuclear terror in this exhaustive study that seeks to “separate what we fear from what we might reasonably expect.” The author traces the debate over nuclear terror from the Cold War to its contemporary nexus with al-Qaeda, noting that 9/11 “renewed all the old debates” and significantly “altered our perceptions” of what was plausible. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s “saber-rattling” and the relentless media coverage exaggerated the threat and left the nation “intentionally terrified.” While acknowledging al-Qaeda’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, Jenkins points out that the evidence “confirms... ambition, not capability” or the knowledge “to fabricate a nuclear device.” Finally, the author invites the reader to assume the role of president in a frightening scenario that begins with a nuclear blast in Manhattan. Jenkins’s ambitious goal seems to be not to downplay the nuclear threat posed by terrorists but to get Americans to address it logically and dispassionately; his thoroughly documented and carefully reasoned study is an important step in that direction. (Sept.)
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