Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons / Edition 1

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Since their inception, nuclear weapons have multiplied at an alarming rate, leaving everyone from policymakers to concerned citizens wondering what it will take to slow, stop, or even reverse their spread. With clarity and expertise, Joseph Cirincione presents an even-handed look at the history of nuclear proliferation and an optimistic vision of its future, providing a comprehensive survey of the wide range of critical perspectives.

Cirincione begins with the first atomic discoveries of the 1930s and covers the history of their growth all the way to current crisis with Iran. He unravels the science, strategy, and politics that have fueled the development of nuclear stockpiles and increased the chance of a nuclear terrorist attack. He also explains why many nations choose not to pursue nuclear weapons and pulls from this the outlines of a solution to the world's proliferation problem: a balance of force and diplomacy, enforcement and engagement that yields a steady decrease in these deadly arsenals.

Though nuclear weapons have not been used in war since August 1945, there is no guarantee this good fortune will continue. A unique blend of history, theory, and security analysis, Bomb Scare is an engaging text that not only supplies the general reader and student with a clear understanding of this issue but also provides a set of tools policymakers and scholars can use to prevent the cataclysmic consequences of another nuclear attack.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books - Jason Epstein

Invaluable... [Bomb Scare] ought to be read by everyone as a matter of life and death.

Science - Christopher F. Chyba

A welcome antidote to the strange confluence of nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) opponents.

New York Review of Books
Invaluable... [ Bomb Scare] ought to be read by everyone as a matter of life and death.

— Jason Epstein

A welcome antidote to the strange confluence of nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) opponents.

— Christopher F. Chyba

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231135115
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 7/7/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 887,695
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 10.62 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Cirincione is the Director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, (Second Edition, 2005) and co-author of Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security (March 2005). He teaches at the Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service and is one of America's best known weapons experts, appearing frequently in print and on FOX News, CNN, ABC, NBC, PBS, NPR and occasionally on Comedy Central.

Columbia University Press

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Read an Excerpt

From the Chapter "Nuclear


Most of the news, debate and
discussion of nonproliferation problems have focused in recent years on
the two or three states suspected of
developing new weapon programs. In part, this is because the overthrow
of these governments, particularly in the Middle East, has overlapped
with other political and security agendas. The war in Iraq was only
partially about eliminating Saddam Hussein& rsquo;s weapons capability,
though that was the major justi& #64257;cation for the war. As former
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz famously admitted, & ldquo;For
bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass
destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree
on.& rdquo;

The crises with Iran and North Korea are serious, but
proliferation problems cannot be solved one country at a time. As the
Carnegie study notes:

Attempting to stem
nuclear proliferation crisis by crisis& mdash; from Iraq, to North Korea,
to Iran, et cetera& mdash;ultimately invites defeat. As each deal is cut,
it sets a new expectation for the next proliferator. Regime change by
force in country after country is neither right nor realistic. The
United States would bankrupt and isolate itself, all the while
convincing additional countries that nuclear weapons would be their only
protection. A more systematic approach that prevents states within the
NPT from acquiring the nuclear infrastructure needed to producenuclear
weapons is the only real sustainable option.
size> While the speci& #64257;cs and politics vary
from country to country, a comprehensive, multidimensional approach is
needed for all the threats we face from new nations acquiring weapons.
Iran, by far the most di& #64259;cult of the cases, can serve as a model
of how such an approach could work.

Think for a moment about what it
will take to convince the current or future Iranian government to
abandon plans to build between six and twenty nuclear power reactors and
all the facilities needed to make and reprocess the fuel for these
reactors. Plans to do so predate the Islamic Republic. The United
States, in fact, provided Iran with its & #64257;rst research reactor in
the late 1960s (it is still operating at the University of
Tehran) and encouraged Iran in its nuclear pursuits. In the 1970s
this encouragement included agreement by senior of& #64257;cials such as
Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Cheney that Iran could develop
indigenous facilities for enriching uranium and for reprocessing the
spent fuel from nuclear reactors. Then-ruler Shah Reza Pahlavi developed
plans to build 22 nuclear power reactors with an electrical output of
23,000 megawatts. Iran& rsquo;s current leaders say they are merely
continuing these plans.

Whatever its true intentions, it will not be
easy to convince Iran that while it could proceed with construction of
power reactors, the country must abandon construction of
fuel-manufacturing facilities. It will likely require both the threat of
sanctions and the promise of the economic bene& #64257;ts of cooperation.

This is the package of carrots and sticks that made up the negotiations
between the European Union and Iran. Calibrating the right balance in
this mix is di& #64259;cult enough, but the package itself is probably
not su& #64259;cient to seal a deal. In 2005 and early 2006, the
hard-line government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad further
complicated the issue with its harsh rhetorical insistence on proceeding
with the nuclear plans and pointed threats to Israel. While the rhetoric
may eventually fade, at the core, Iran or any country& rsquo;s reasons
for wanting its own fuel cycle capabilities are similar to the reasons
some countries want nuclear weapons: security, prestige and domestic
political pressures. All of these will have to be addressed in order to
craft a permanent solution.

Part of the security equation can be
addressed by the prospect of a new relationship with the United States
that ends regime change e& #64256;orts. Iran would need some assurances
that agreements on the nuclear program could end e& #64256;orts by the
United States and Israel to remove the current regime. The United States
has told North Korea that it has no hostile intentions toward the state
and that an end to that country& rsquo;s program would lead to the
restoration of diplomatic relations. Similar assurances will be needed
for Iran. But there is also a regional dimension. Ending the threat from
an Iranian nuclear program will require placing the Iranian decision in
the context of the long-standing U.S. goal of a Middle East free of
nuclear weapons. It will be impossible for a country as important as
Iran to abstain permanently from acquiring the technologies for
producing nuclear weapons& mdash;at least as a hedge& mdash;if other
countries in the region have them (the
dynamic noted by the 1961 National Intelligence Estimate
decades ago). Iran& rsquo;s leaders will want some assurances that there
is a process under way that can remove what they see as potential
threats from their neighbors, including Israel. For domestic political
reasons, they will want to present their nuclear abstinence as part of a
movement toward a shared and balanced regional commitment.

Many readers
might throw up there hands at this point. & ldquo;Israel, give up its
nuclear weapons? Impossible!& rdquo; But such nuclear-free zones have
been created in other regions which, though not as intensely contested
as the Middle East, still had to overcome substantial rivalries and
which saw the abandonment of existing programs (in South America) and
the dismantlement of actual weapons (in Africa and Central Asia). Little
diplomatic e& #64256;ort has been put behind the declared U.S. policy in
recent years& mdash;certainly nothing on the scale of the e& #64256;ort
Republican and Democrats needed to create the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty and its support mechanisms in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ridding the region of nuclear weapons will, of course, be
di& #64259;cult, but it is far better than the alternative of a Middle
East with not one nuclear power (Israel) but two, three, or four nuclear
weapon states& mdash;and with unresolved territorial, religious, and
political disputes. The latter is a recipe for nuclear war. The key
issue is to get the process going, so that states in the region can have
some viable alternative to the pessimistic view that the Middle East
will never be nuclear free. A distinguished group of twenty nuclear
experts representing a cross-section of national and political views
recommended in 2005 that part of the solution to a & ldquo;nuclear-ready
Iran& rdquo; was to encourage Israel to initiate a & ldquo;Middle East
nuclear restraint e& #64256;ort& rdquo; that would begin by shutting down
the Israeli production reactor at Dimona. Israel, the group convened by
the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center said, should then show that
it was willing to take further steps, including dismantling all its
& #64257;ssile-producing facilities and handing over control of its
weapons-usable & #64257;ssile material to the IAEA, as long as other
states in the region did the same.

In order for this plan or any
similar plan to succeed, there will have to be a concurrent e& #64256;ort
to change fundamentally the way nuclear
fuel is produced and reprocessed. Doing so would satisfy a
nation& rsquo;s security considerations that it does not have to build
its own facilities in order to have a secure supply of fuel for its
reactors. Some Iranians see the current negotiations as a new
e& #64256;ort by the West to place them, once again, in a dependent
relationship. This time the West would not control their oil, they say,
but the energy of the future, nuclear fuel. Iran, indeed any nation,
will not permanently acquiesce to a discriminatory regime that adds to
the existing inequality& mdash;allowing some countries to have nuclear
weapons while others cannot& mdash;by now allowing some countries to make
nuclear fuel while others cannot.

As detailed in the previous section,
reforming the current system will require overcoming billions of dollars
worth of corporate and national investments and core national
commitments to the present methods of producing and disposing of nuclear
fuel. Thorough reform, however, is the only sure way to prevent more and
more nations from acquiring the technology that can bring
them& mdash;legally& mdash;right up to the threshold of nuclear weapons

The key is to begin moving in this direction. A & #64257;rst
step could be crafting with Iran a compromise agreement that would allow
some processing of uranium to take place inside Iran, for example
converting uranium to the gas used in centrifuges, but shipping the gas
to Russia for enrichment and fabrication into fuel rods. The Iranian
government could declare that it was using Iranian uranium to fuel
Iranian reactors, but the world would have kept Iran from constructing
the facilities that would bring it close to weapons capability. This
interim step could hold for several years as a more permanent fuel
supply regime was constructed.

Finally, these discussions must take
place in a world where nuclear weapons are being devalued as measures of
security, status, and technical achievement. Just as it is fruitless for
parents to try to convince their children not to smoke while they are
reveling in a two-pack-a-day habit, it will be impossible for other
nations to refrain permanently from acquiring nuclear weapons while they
remain the currency of great power status. As the Carnegie authors
concluded, & ldquo;The core bargain of the NPT, and of global
nonproliferation politics, can neither be
ignored nor wished away. It underpins the international security system
and shapes the expectations of citizens and leaders around the
world.& rdquo;

Breaking the nuclear habit will not be easy, but there
are ways to minimize the unease some may feel as they are weaned away
from dependence on these weapons. The United States and Russia account
for over 95 percent of the world& rsquo;s nuclear weapons. The two
nations have such redundant nuclear capability that it would not
compromise any vital security interests to quickly reduce down to
General Habiger& rsquo;s recommended level of 600 total warheads each.
Further reductions and the possibility of complete elimination could
then be examined in detailed papers prepared by and for the nuclear
weapon states. If accompanied by rea& #64259;rmation of the ban on
nuclear testing, removal of all weapons from rapid-launch alert status,
establishment of a & #64257;rm norm against the & #64257;rst use of these
weapons, and commitments to make the reductions in weapons irreversible
and veri& #64257;able, the momentum and example generated could
fundamentally alter the global dynamic.

Such an e& #64256;ort would
hearken back to the early Truman proposals that coupled weapons
elimination with strict, veri& #64257;ed enforcement of nonproliferation.
Dramatic reductions in nuclear forces could be joined, for example, with
reforms making it more di& #64259;cult for countries to withdraw from the
NPT (by clarifying that no state may withdraw from the treaty and escape
responsibility for prior violations of the treaty or retain access to
controlled materials and equipment acquired for & ldquo;peaceful& rdquo;
purposes).34 It would make it easier to obtain national commitments to
stop the illegal transfer of nuclear technologies and reform the fuel
cycle. The reduction in the number of weapons and the production of
nuclear materials would also greatly decrease the risk of terrorists
acquiring such materials.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables     vii
Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
Building the Bomb     1
Controlling the Bomb     14
Racing with the Bomb     21
Why States Want Nuclear Weapons-and Why They Don't     47
Today's Nuclear World     84
The New U.S. Policy     110
The Good News About Proliferation     125
Nuclear Solutions     139
Afterword: The Shape of Things to Come     158
Notes     183
Glossary     209
Index     219
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2011


    A solid intro and great analysis of the problem of proliferation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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