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Overview

Nuclear terrorism is such a disturbing prospect that we shy away from its details. Yet as a consequence, we fail to understand how best to defeat it. Michael Levi takes us inside nuclear terrorism and behind the decisions a terrorist leader would be faced with in pursuing a nuclear plot. Along the way, Levi identifies the many obstacles, large and small, that such a terrorist scheme might encounter, allowing him to discover a host of ways that any plan might be foiled.

Surveying the broad universe of plots and defenses, this accessible account shows how a wide-ranging defense that integrates the tools of weapon and materials security, law enforcement, intelligence, border controls, diplomacy, and the military can multiply, intensify, and compound the possibility that nuclear terrorists will fail. Levi draws from our long experience with terrorism and cautions us not to focus solely on the most harrowing yet most improbable threats. Nuclear terrorism shares much in common with other terrorist threats--and as a result, he argues, defeating it is impossible unless we put our entire counterterrorism and homeland security house in order.

As long as we live in a nuclear age, no defense can completely eliminate nuclear terrorism. But this book reminds us that the right strategy can minimize the risks and shows us how to do it.

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Editorial Reviews

Joint Force Quarterly

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

Nonproliferation Review

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

Michael M. May
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.
William Perry
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.
Thomas C. Schelling
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.
Ashton B. Carter
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.
Brian M. Jenkins
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.
Sam Nunn
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.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Paul Cornish
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.
Nature - Martin Van Creveld
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.
Joint Force Quarterly - R. E. Henstrand
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.
Nonproliferation Review - Simen A. Ellingsen
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.
Times Higher Education Supplement

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

Los Angeles Times
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.
Nature

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674032385
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Preface

List of Abbreviations

Prologue

1. Principles for Defense

2. Security at the Source

3. Building Blocks

4. The Beginnings of a True System

5. Warning

6. A Wider Universe of Nuclear Plots and Defenses

7. The Way Forward

Appendix: Radiation Detection and Weapons Effects Calculations

Glossary

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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