AUTHORJenkins, Brian Michael
TITLEWill Terrorists Go Nuclear?
PUBLISHERPrometheus Books
CITYAmherst, NY

In this book, the author draws on his extensive career as a terrorism expert to examine how speculation has colored the U.S. interpretation of the threat of nuclear terrorism. Using at times history, political science, psychology, and cultural analysis, he examines how Americans' fear of nuclear terrorism is fueled by speculation and why that fear is a problem. After providing an introduction to the subject, the book surveys terrorist attempts and groups, such as al-Qaeda, to examine their motives and operating strategies and to highlight differences between what is theoretically possible and what is practically possible in the realm of nuclear terrorism. The author then examines black markets for nuclear materials and the complexity of moving from possession of materials to possession or use of weapons; he also presents the history of speculation regarding the dangers of β€œred mercury,” from the 1960s to 2007, to illustrate Americans' tendancy to overestimate certain threats. His conclusion emphasizes the dangers that can result – such as erosion of civil liberties – when a population acts based on unreasonable fear. The author warns readers of the potential of fear to exacerbate rather than alleviate the threat of nuclear terrorism by engendering warped judgement, intolerance, and policies based on "an artificial environment of absolutes, not the real world of relative risks" (p. 377). Notes and a lengthy bibliography accompany the book.

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