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Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? [Hardcover]

by Brian Michael Jenkins, Gov. James Gilmore, Sen. Gary Hart
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 23, 2008 1591026563 978-1591026563 1St Edition
According to a British intelligence report leaked to the press in 2007, al Qaeda operatives are planning a large-scale attack "on par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki." How likely is it that terrorists will develop the capability of such an attack? No one understands the nature of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism better than Brian Michael Jenkins—one of the world’s most renowned experts on terrorism. For more than thirty years, he has been advising the military, government, and prestigious think tanks on the dangers of escalating terrorism.
Jenkins goes beyond what the experts know about terrorists’ efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, nuclear black markets, "suitcase bombs," and mysterious substances like red mercury to examine how terrorists themselves think about such weapons. He offers many insights into such vital questions as:

• Do terrorists see nuclear weapons as instruments of coercion or of pure destruction? • Are those we label religious fanatics constrained by political and strategic calculations?
• If a nuclear attack took place on American soil, what life-and-death decisions would the president be forced to make? He puts the reader in the position of the president to convey the immediacy of making decisions—and the perilous repercussions of each critical decision.

Jenkins notes that terrorists have become increasingly adept at creating an atmosphere of nuclear terror. In fact, al Qaeda may have succeeded in becoming the world’s first terrorist nuclear power without possessing a single nuclear weapon. The psychological effects of nuclear terror are fueled by American culture, which churns out novels and movies in which every conceivable horror scenario is played out. Political factions on both the right and the left also view nuclear terrorism as fodder to support their own arguments. In such an atmosphere, it is difficult for the average citizen to separate real from imagined dangers. Jenkins’s informed and seasoned analysis will give all Americans a levelheaded understanding of the real situation and teach us how not to yield to nuclear terror.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Jenkins shows us how we must confront our fears with thoughtful and diligent action. We can afford to do no less. A must read. " —George Tenet, former director of the CIA

"In Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? Brian Michael Jenkins brings a lifetime of experience and expertise to today's most pressing national security question. With skill and clarity he separates fact from fiction, laying the groundwork for a thoughtful approach to confronting the nexus of nuclear weapons and terrorism. This is an important book on an urgent threat confronting the American people."
--Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, President and
Director, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 457 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1St Edition edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591026563
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591026563
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I urge you to read this important book, and then share it with your local and national leaders.

Brian Jenkins, a senior advisor at the RAND Corporation, has been studying the issue of nuclear terrorism since the early 1970s. In fact, he may be the world's leading expert on this terrifying topic. "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?" has been endorsed by top intelligence experts on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as a Nobel Prize laureate and retired military leaders.

Warning: This is not a work of sensationalism. Unlike so many "shock authors," Jenkins is even-handed and very careful with his words. He even criticizes his own earlier work, which is a rare thing in this age of reckless self-promotion.

Here's the gist of Jenkins's argument: Nuclear "terror" and nuclear "terrorism" are two VERY different problems. One is emotional. The other is factual. If we base our policies on emotion, our nation will suffer through unnecessary fear and make poor decisions about security. As Jenkins states: "Al Qaeda is the first terrorist group to incite nuclear terror without actually possessing a nuclear weapon."

Make no mistake: The distinction between "terror" and "terrorism" is absolutely critical to our national response, says Jenkins. Nuclear terror is fear based on what MIGHT happen. In contrast, nuclear terrorism is the actual historical record of specific terrorist ACTS involving nuclear materials -- plus an objective estimate of current terrorist capabilities.

Jenkins leaves no stone unturned. He walks us through the history of nuclear terror going back to H.G. Wells' 1913 novel on the subject and continuing to the current day. It's a fascinating -- almost unbelievable -- trip.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expert strategy but citizens must get involved December 16, 2008
Government officials trying to cope with terrorism's nagging complexity often resort to hiring consultants to soothe their concerns and help them find policies to thwart terrorism while not overreacting. Given the current state of America, terrorism experts like Brian Jenkins have a vital role in helping protect America. But experts can only help to a certain extent -- they're like a crutch, not a cure, because they can't prevent terrorism like citizens can.

This book is an advertisement for Brian Jenkins, terrorism expert. Like any cautious consultant, he wants it both ways: he wants to reassure a fearful public that nuclear terrorism is less likely than they think; but if nuclear terrorism happens, he doesn't want to be blamed for making a poor prediction. The result is a confused advertisement for his professional services. Will terrorists go nuclear? Jenkins won't say. And his failure to take a stand undercuts his argument that Al Qaeda has scared us into believing that it's a nuclear power -- if terrorists nuke Manhattan, then our worries will have been correct. However, if we're over-reacting to a non-existent threat of smuggled nuclear bombs, then a title like "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?" ratchets up fear without purpose.

The real audience of this book is not the public but government officials who might hire Mr. Jenkins as well as media gate-keepers seeking a talking head after terrorism erupts. So Mr. Jenkins must appear knowledgeable to these two audiences. Perhaps this is why there are graphs typically found in introductory economics textbooks? There's a dubious reality TV skit tacked on near the end in which the reader is supposed to play president after a city has been nuked.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the Terrorists Go Nuclear? September 17, 2008
For several presidential elections the candidates have all said the greatest danger facing America is nuclear terrorism. Even now. But somehow, it isn't part of the discussion, perhaps because they don't know how to talk about it. This book by Brian Jenkins is not only comprehendive, compelling, and a great read, it provides a realistic analysis of the history of nuclear terror and nuclear terrosim, pointing out that the latter -- the threat of a nuclear attack -- has all terrorists have ever been able to accomplish. That threat, however, has a higher probability of doing danger to our values, our commitment to civil liberty, and all the important things America stands for in the world than the risk of an attack.

Jenkins, who is an acknowledged expert in the field, provides a chapter that is as compelling as an episode of "24," running the scenario of what you would do if you were president and "A Brilliant Yellow Light" was seen over New York City.

The book is a must for anyone seriously concerned about the danger of a nuclear attack, or the danger to our civil liberties of living in ignorance and fear. It should be part of the presidential debate, but won't be unless someone asks the candidates directly what they think.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Terrorists Go Nuclear June 28, 2009
As usual for Brian Jenkins, this is a thorough book based upon Jenkins' more than 30 years of terrorism research. This particular book is a detailed dissection of the facts and beliefs involved in the discussion of the risk of nuclear terrorism. Martin - writing a textbook on Homeland Security Law.
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