In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age
Stephanie Cooke, Bloomsbury, 2009, 488 pp.
Stephanie Cooke, a writer and editor who has covered the nuclear industry for nearly three decades, provides a compelling history of the atomic age. A central theme of Cooke’s narrative is the uneasy balance between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. As one example, she points to the Eisenhower administration’s Operation Candor, “a yearlong media campaign designed to get Americans used to the permanent presence of nuclear weapons.” In its attempts to link that presence with the latent potential for nuclear power, the campaign “led to the conflation of two apparently contradictory messages (peace now, war later?)” and “an overselling of the supposed benefits,” she says. Tracing the tale from the Manhattan Project to the current debate around nuclear power, Cooke humanizes her story by drawing on personal accounts from key figures such as Joseph Rotblat and David Lilienthal.
The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems Since 1945
Norman Polmar and Robert S. Norris, Naval Institute Press, 2009, 274 pp.
In this comprehensive reference book, Norman Polmar and Robert S. Norris detail the technical and political developments in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, from its inception in the 1940s up to the present day. With more than 100 black-and-white photographs and numerous charts, Polmar, a defense analyst who has written for the U.S. Navy and the Defense Nuclear Agency, and Norris, senior research associate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, cover all aspects of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Chapters focus on nuclear warheads, strategic aircraft, tactical aircraft, strategic missiles, tactical missiles and rockets, artillery, and anti-submarine weapons.
Unconventional Weapons and International Terrorism: Challenges and New Approaches
Magnus Ranstorp and Magnus Normark, eds., Routledge, 2009, 210 pp.
Editors Magnus Ranstorp and Magnus Normark have assembled a useful collection of essays that resulted from a 2007 international workshop on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism, held at the Swedish National Defence College. (Ranstorp is research director of the college’s Center for Asymmetric Studies; Normark works on CBRN issues for the Swedish Defense Research Agency.) The principal goal of the conference and the book was to identify a set of critical indicators and early warning signs for possible acquisition and use of unconventional weapons by terrorists. To this end, the essays examine the current difficulties in the field of CBRN terrorism studies. One of the largest obstacles is the dearth of reliable data because there have been no cases of CRBN terrorism resulting in mass fatalities, one of the essays says. Another problem, Ranstorp and Normark say, has been the general failure to merge hard-science and social-science approaches to the issue. The essays attempt to build a new methodological framework encompassing both the technical factors contributing to a terrorist organization’s ability to use CRBN weapons and the factors that might motivate the group to carry out such attacks.