Annihilation From Within

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In this eloquent and impassioned book, defense expert Fred Iklé predicts a revolution in national security that few strategists have grasped; fewer still are mindful of its historic roots. We are preoccupied with suicide bombers, jihadist terrorists, and rogue nations producing nuclear weapons, but these menaces are merely distant thunder that foretells the gathering storm.

It is the dark side of technological progress that explains this emerging crisis. Globalization guarantees the spread of new technologies, whether beneficial or destructive, and this proliferation reaches beyond North Korea, Iran, and other rogue states. Our greatest threat is a cunning tyrant gaining possession of a few weapons of mass destruction. His purpose would not be to destroy landmarks, highjack airplanes, or attack railroad stations. He would annihilate a nation's government from within and assume dictatorial power. The twentieth century offers vivid examples of tyrants who have exploited major national disasters by rallying violent followers and intimidating an entire nation.

To explain how we have become so vulnerable, Iklé turns to history. Some 250 years ago, science was freed from political and religious constraints, causing a cultural split in which one part of our culture remained animated by religion and politics while the other became guided by science. Since then, technological progress and the evolving political order march to different drummers. Science advances at an accelerating pace while religion and politics move along a zigzag course. This divergence will widen and endanger the survival of all nations.

Drawing on his experience as a Washington insider, Iklé outlines practical measures that could readily be implemented to help us avert the worst disaster.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Wall Street Journal - Walter Laqueur

The great value of Mr. Iklé's book: to make us consider the worst.

Washington Times - Austin Bay

Should be on every Pentagon reading list.

Bloomberg - George Walden

Iklé addresses a reality we prefer to ignore.

Weekly Standard - Eric Cohen

A sobering exploration of the perils of progress.

American Spectator - R. Emmett Tyrrell

A book that should be read by every serious citizen, especially those responsible for our national security.

Washington Post - David Ignatius

A grim assessment of America's vulnerability.

The Washington Times - Richard W. Rahn

An extremely important and readable book... that requires attention.

The Wall Street Journal
The great value of Mr. Iklé's book: to make us consider the worst.

— Walter Laqueur

Washington Times
Should be on every Pentagon reading list.

— Austin Bay

Iklé addresses a reality we prefer to ignore.

— George Walden

Weekly Standard
A sobering exploration of the perils of progress.

— Eric Cohen

American Spectator
A book that should be read by every serious citizen, especially those responsible for our national security.

— R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

Washington Post
A grim assessment of America's vulnerability.

— David Ignatius

The Washington Times
An extremely important and readable book... that requires attention.

— Richard W. Rahn

Barry Gewen
Annihilation from Within is in many ways a deeply eccentric, and flawed, book. After a long and distinguished career, Ikle is ready to ride his personal hobbyhorses in public, and some of them take him down strange paths. When he talks about the need for religion, culture and tradition to rein in the excesses of science, you picture a new breed of inquisitor going after modern-day Galileos. But his warnings about the dangerous conjunction of nuclear proliferation and terrorism are unassailable and point to a future much like the present. Should Islamist fanatics develop another safe haven in another failed Middle East state and look to acquire weapons of mass destruction, American troops may have to wade in once again, with everyone on every side shooting at us.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231139526
  • Publisher: Columbia University
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 0.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 5.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Fred Charles Iklé was undersecretary of defense for policy during the Reagan administration and served Presidents Nixon and Ford as director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In 1999 he was a member of the National Commission on Terrorism and in 2001 he became a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. He is a Distinguished Scholar at The Center of International and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., and is the author of several books, including Every War Must End (Columbia) and How Nations Negotiate.

Columbia University Press

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Read an Excerpt

Not just weapons of mass destruction will revolutionize our world. The most revolutionary future impact of the life sciences might be the most difficult to control: the conquest of the human mind by brain science. Powerful nations are taking advantage of the rapid advances in brain science to complement the strengths of computers with the unique capabilities of the human mind. These projects might achieve superhuman intelligence systems that can trump the performance of the latest super-computers and the best human experts. Any such leap forward would be a change comparable to the evolution from primates to homo sapiens. It would pose the most fundamental challenge to all religions. It would upend human civilization. And it would instantly obliterate all previous notions about relative national power.

Thus, the ultimate threat to nations approaches from two sides. If the quest for superhuman intelligence succeeds with a dramatic breakthrough, the identity of the human race will be challenged. If weapons of mass destruction inescapably move beyond the control of nation states, the most violent forms of anarchy will spread across the world.

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Table of Contents

What This Book Is About vii

1 Mankind's Cultural Split 1

2 Science Pushes Us Over the Brink 19

3 Five Lessons of the Nuclear Age 39

4 Annihilation from Within 59

5 Time to Get Serious 81

6 Restoration 101

Notes 108

Acknowledgments 131

Index 133

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