The Will to Prevent: Global Challenges of Nuclear Proliferation

By Allison, Graham | Harvard International Review, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Will to Prevent: Global Challenges of Nuclear Proliferation


Allison, Graham, Harvard International Review


Imagine that on September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, terrorists successfully executed a nuclear terrorist attack in New York City. On a normal working day, more than 500,000 people crowd the area within a half-mile radius of Times Square. The explosion of a Hiroshima-sized nuclear device in midtown Manhattan would have killed all of them instantly. Hundreds of thousands of others would have died in the hours thereafter. The blast would have generated temperatures reaching 540,000 degrees Fahrenheit, instantly vaporizing the Theater District, the New York Times Building, and Grand Central Terminal. The ensuing firestorm would have stretched from Rockefeller Center to the Empire State Building, and buildings from the Metropolitan Museum near 80th street and the Flatiron Building near 20th street would have looked like the Murrah Federal Office Building following the Oklahoma City bombing.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

With the recent North Korean nuclear test bringing nuclear danger into sharp relief, many citizens are now asking: how real is the threat of terrorists exploding a nuclear bomb and devastating a great metropolis? Former US Senator Sam Nunn believes the likelihood of a single nuclear bomb exploding in a single city is greater today than at the height of the Cold War. I believe the chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next decade are greater than 50 percent, given current trends. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry believes I underestimate the risk of an attack. Warren Buffet, the world's most successful investor, believes a nuclear terrorist attack "will happen. It's inevitable. I don't see any way that it won't happen." Companies that sell catastrophic terrorism insurance exclude nuclear attacks from their policies. Otherwise these insurance companies would be "vulnerable to extinction," in Buffett's words.

In April, Bill Emmott stepped down from the helm of The Economist after 13 years as its leader. As is the tradition at The Economist, his final act was a substantial review of developments in the world during his tenure. In his essay, Emmott noted the unbelievable pace and extent of globalization that has occurred over the last 13 years. As he looked to the future, his forecast was faster and deeper globalization. But in conclusion, he asked: what could upset that forecast and even reverse the trend? His answer: a single nuclear bomb exploding in any capital in the world.

Nuclear Dangers Today

The face of nuclear danger today is a nuclear September 11. As Nobel Prize winner and head of the IAEA Mohamed ElBaradei has warned, "The threat of nuclear terrorism is real and current." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted, "Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction. I wish it were. But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties ... Were a nuclear terrorist attack to occur, it would cause not only widespread death and destruction, but would stagger the world economy and thrust tens of millions of people into dire poverty."

To assess the threat of nuclear terrorism, it is necessary to answer five questions. One, who could be planning a nuclear terrorist attack? Two, what nuclear weapons could be used? Three, where could terrorists acquire a nuclear bomb? Four, could terrorists launch the first nuclear attack? Five, could terrorists deliver a nuclear weapon to its target?

Who could be planning a nuclear terrorist attack?

Al Qaeda remains a formidable enemy with clear nuclear ambitions. According to Michael Scheuer, the former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency's Bin Laden task force, Bin Laden acquired a fatwa from a Saudi cleric in May 2003 which provided religious justification for the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Will to Prevent: Global Challenges of Nuclear Proliferation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.