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On Nuclear Terrorism

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674032385
ISBN-10: 0674032381
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Editorial Reviews


This book offers the best insights for a coordinated defense system against nuclear terrorism I have seen, as well as a perceptive survey of the opportunities and difficulties nuclear terrorists would face. Well written and carefully researched, it is a must for every counterterrorism planner as well as for any interested citizen. (Michael M. May, former Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Professor Emeritus, Stanford University)

Michael Levi shows that defending against nuclear terrorism requires confronting every aspect of a terrorist's plot. Thoroughly researched, thoughtfully argued, and well written, On Nuclear Terrorism examines the most important security problem the world faces today. (William Perry, former Secretary of Defense and Professor, Stanford University)

This is serious stuff. If you want to know how a terrorist organization might manage to mount a nuclear attack--or how to stop them--you need to read this book. (Thomas C. Schelling, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics)

Levi's is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and technically informed treatment of nuclear terrorism. This important book makes a big contribution to public understanding and to public policy on nuclear terrorism, which might yet--despite the daunting odds--prevent it from ever happening. (Ashton B. Carter, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy and Professor, Harvard University)

In this comprehensive and accessible book, Levi effectively challenges many popular assertions about how easy it would be for terrorists to fabricate and deliver a nuclear weapon. He then outlines an integrated defense strategy from prevention to detection to mitigation. This should become the basic reference for nuclear terrorism. Recommended for anyone interested in the topic. Mandatory for policymakers. (Brian M. Jenkins, Senior Advisor, RAND Corporation)

Michael Levi presents a strong case for why we need to do everything we can to keep the world's most dangerous weapons and materials out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people. He focuses on the broad range of today's nuclear threats and provides unique insights into how terrorist groups work. He also makes important specific recommendations to address these dangers--the most critical security issue facing our nation and the world. (Sam Nunn, Former U.S. Senator and Co-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative)

The prevention of nuclear terrorism cannot be guaranteed, and so it is essential to prepare for the gruesome consequences of such an attack. Effective consequence management will require participation of an informed public, and for that reason alone, On Nuclear Terrorism should have the widest possible readership. (Paul Cornish Times Higher Education Supplement 2007-12-21)

We wish...that the current and incoming national security advisor and secretaries of State, Defense and Homeland Security [would] read Michael Levi's On Nuclear Terrorism and make it a top priority to ensure that everything that can be done to foil a nuclear attack by terrorists is being done. (Los Angeles Times 2008-01-01)

Anyone who reads [Levi's] work cannot but be impressed by his deep understanding of nuclear terrorism and the possibilities of dealing with it...It is one of Levi's strong points that, from beginning to end, he does not engage in any kind of mystery-solving or moralizing. What he does provide is a step-by-step account of the many possibilities of using nuclear bombs and materials for terrorist ends and of at least some of the things that can be done to prevent those possibilities from being realized...For anyone with a serious interest in the possibilities of nuclear terrorism and how to prevent it, On Nuclear Terrorism is a must. (Martin van Creveld Nature 2008-04-10)

An excellent and challenging book on the problem of nuclear terrorism that is being read and debated in all corners of the WMD community...This book is a must read for anyone involved in the problem of protecting our nation from nuclear terrorism. (R. E. Henstrand Joint Force Quarterly 2008-09-01)

Levi offers a system of thought on how to deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism that is probably the most complete and thoughtful published to date. In grasping a vast and complex topic and making sense of it in the light of a lucid and comprehensible framework, On Nuclear Terrorism is a paramount contribution to the effort to understand and minimize the threat of nuclear terrorism. (Simen A. Ellingsen Nonproliferation Review 2008-06-01)

About the Author

Michael Levi is David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674032381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674032385
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the CFR program on energy security and climate change. The author of four books and an authority on energy, resources, climate, arms control, and terrorism, his writing has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Wired, Nature, and Scientific American. Levi previously wrote a monthly online column for the New Republic, and was a technical consultant to the critically acclaimed television drama 24. Levi holds degrees in mathematical physics and in war studies. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author takes a very systematic approach to the analysis of the task of obtaining and delivering a nuclear weapon and then looks at the vulnerabilities of the process which are the opportunities of the defender.

Sadly too much of what makes the press on the subject amounts to a keyhole view of a single element of the offensive or defensive process. In contrast, the book looks at the complexity of the process and the impact on the overall opportunity for success of a "layered" defense. The conclusion is that it is not a single impenetrable layer that offers the opportunity for reducing the threat but rather multiple layers.

What we fail to grasp on terrorist issues we intuitively understand every fall weekend as we watch football. When it comes down to the end of the game and time for one or two plays the defense has multiple opportunities to reduce the overall probability of of offensive success. A coach would be foolish to rush 11 players or have 11 players deep while giving the quarterback the flexibility to select the time and place of attack. Instead the defenders balance the defense to defend at multiple points as a strategy which reduces the overall probability of offensive success.

Like American football success in combating doomsday terrorist threats comes from not only multiple levels but also from surprise, communication, deception and hard work.

In defending against nuclear terrorism multiple, independently managed efforts from threat analysis to intelligence to field intervention to defending the attempted delivery can reduce the probability of success to a level that makes the effort "non profitable" from the terrorist standpoint.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G. Wayne Glass on December 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Michael Levi offers a unique perspective on the fear that drives the American psyche and political process these days-----nuclear weapons in the hands of a terrorist. While many experts exploit that fear to support expensive programs to counter nuclear terrorism, Levi takes an analytical perspective which describes in detail the series of difficult challenges which terrorists must overcome in order to accomplish the ultimate nightmare. His perspective as a physicist provides technological information not often found in policy pundits' consideration of this critical national and international security issue. Levi presents such technical information in a readable, but sophisticated form which enlightens those who seek to know more about the types of nuclear materials and weapons that a terrorist might seek. Additional technical information about detection and characterization technologies is also incorporated into this highly informative study. Casual readers will also benefit from Levi's unique approach-----looking at nuclear terrorism through the eyes of a terrorist planner. His message is a realistic, but hopeful one-----that nuclear terrorism is not inevitable, particularly if policy makers allocate resources to the obstacles that could make the ultimate nightmare only a figment of the imagination. Very Highly Recommended
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By G. Desjardins on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing the author on the radio. His perspective on nuclear terrorism is unexpected: we normally think that the terrorists must only succeed once, while security services must be effective every time.

But while that may be true in the broadest sense, the author points out that the terrorists have to succeed at every stage of the incredibly difficult process, while the police only need to catch them once. It's hard for terrorists to be good at everything they need to do: though they may procure bomb-making materials, they may not be very good at planting bombs (e.g. - the doctors who attempted to blow up Glasgow Airport, but left their car bombs parked in a no-parking zone.) On the other hand, it's possible for the police to be effective at every level, from monitoring so-called "loose nukes" to detecting radiation in ports to tracking suspicious movements in cities.

It was a revelation to read this book, because the analysis is far more reasoned and realistic than what's typically found in the media.
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