Terrorists, like states, pursue political objectives and have similar concerns regarding power and security. Lacking state resources, terrorists employ instrumental targeting in pursuit of those objectives, while remaining relatively invulnerable to retaliation. This dynamic will encourage terrorists to acquire and exploit nuclear potential, thereby overturning traditional theories of deterrence.
Wishful thinking about nuclear terrorism has discouraged thoughtful analysis of this dilemma. The prospect is sufficiently dire, that a preventive campaign must be launched to stop terrorist acquisition of nuclear capabilities. Policymakers must also prepare for the possible failure of preventive efforts, and search for options that may mitigate nuclear terrorism.