How I Learned to Stop Worrying

By Logan, Justin | The American Conservative, July 3, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

How I Learned to Stop Worrying

Logan, Justin, The American Conservative

[The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor, William i.angewiesene, Forrar, Straus and Giroux, 192 pages] How I Learned to Stop Worrying...

By Justin Logan

IN 1963, President John F. Kennedy described his alarm over one possible course of world politics. "I am haunted," Kennedy admitted, "by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of four, and by 1975, 15 or 20."

To the relief of many, Kennedy was overly pessimistic. By 1970, only China had joined the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France as the fifth member of the nuclear club, and by 1975, there were only six nuclear states, India having tested in 1974. Even today the nuclear club has only nine members. Still, nuclear technology is more than 60 years old, and its proliferation is governed by an agreement that will turn 40 next year. It is unlikely that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will constrain the spread of nuclear weapons indefinitely, and with North Korea having attained nuclear status and Iran apparently trying determinedly to do the same, the stresses on the NPT are severe and growing.

The accepted view on all of this is that the NPT will hold because it must. The uncertain world that lies beyond its reach is so frightening to many, including much of the arms-control community, that we dare not countenance it.

Not so for William Langewiesche. In his new book, The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor, Langewiesche concludes starkly, "Diplomacy may help to slow the spread [of nuclear weapons] , but it can no more stop the process than it can reverse the progression of time. The nuclearization of the world has become the human condition, and it cannot be changed."

This revelation comes early on, and it sums up the sense of fatalism that pervades the book Langewiesche opens with an icy discussion of the American use of nuclear weapons against civilian populations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by a similarly antiseptic description of the physics of nuclear weapons. A national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Langewiesche is a skillful writer, and both treatments induce awe and queasiness, reflecting our deep ambivalence about our nation's relationship with nuclear technology. Langewiesche cannot resist pointing out that by any fair definition of the word "terrorism," the American attacks on Hiroshima-and certainly on Nagasaki - constituted the gravest acts of terrorism the world has ever seen.

This discussion sets up an explanation of how revulsion over Hiroshima led the founding fathers of the nuclear bomb to create the Federation of American Scientists, a group that to this day attempts to educate policymakers and the American public on the implications and dangers of nuclear weapons. The book also offers a brief explanation of the logic of the NPT-it was intended not to constrain, let alone reduce, the number of nuclear weapons in the world but rather to limit membership in the club of nuclear nations-before moving swiftly on to Langewiesche's bread and butter, investigative reporting.

He frames this section by putting the reader in the position of the head of a non-state group attempting to acquire nuclear weapons for first-use against the United States. Recounting the many obstacles to achieving this goal, Langewiesche takes readers on a tour of the southern Caucasus, Kurdistan, and other locales in which he has investigated the nuclear trade. Langewiesche has a deepseated cynicism about the U.S. government's efforts to constrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and he highlights numerous instances of American fecklessness and lack of seriousness.

One particularly galling example is the case of the formerly closed Russian town of Ozersk, a place that now houses tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in shakily secured facilities. The Russians-paranoid but not without real enemies-only reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the U.

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.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

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

Cited article

How I Learned to Stop Worrying


Text size Smaller Larger
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?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

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

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

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.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?