American Missile Defense
Victoria Samson, Praeger, 2010, 252 pp.
American Missile Defense is an in-depth, authoritative account of U.S. missile defense programs from the early 1950s to the present. Victoria Samson, director of the Washington office of the Secure World Foundation, argues that U.S. missile defense capabilities are widely exaggerated and suffered from poor development planning under the George W. Bush administration. Samson details the elements of the U.S. missile defense system, discussing their developmental paths, costs, operational timelines, and current capabilities. She evaluates various programs in the context of overall U.S. missile defense strategy and concludes that development of programs to intercept long-range strategic missiles has been slowed by lack of oversight and cost control under the Bush administration. She argues that although the Obama administration has begun to make improvements in the development process, U.S. missile defense programs are still incapable of meeting current threats facing the United States. —MICHAEL ASHBY
Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
Matthew Kroenig, CornellUniversity Press, 2010, 233 pp.
Noting that a state’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons hinges on receiving outside help, GeorgetownUniversity professor Matthew Kroenig presents a novel supply-side approach to nuclear proliferation and challenges the conventional wisdom that nuclear exports are driven by economic considerations. Kroenig argues that the likelihood of sensitive nuclear transfers rises with an exporting state’s inability to project power over the nuclear recipient and with the presence of a common enemy. He also argues that states are less likely to provide sensitive nuclear assistance when they depend on a superpower patron. Kroenig constructs a data set of yearly information for all capable nuclear suppliers and potential recipients from 1951 to 2000 and examines several case studies to test his theory. He suggests that other nations give lower priority to nonproliferation issues than Washington because “nuclear proliferation threatens the United States more than any other state.” Kroenig concludes that although sensitive nuclear assistance is unlikely to be provided to terrorists, strategic incentives for sensitive nuclear exports to states will remain. —VOLHA CHARNYSH
A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons
Edward M. Spiers, Reaktion Books, 2010, 224 pp.
In A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, Edward M. Spiers offers a comprehensive overview of the development, future, and implications of biological and chemical weapons. Spiers’ book traces the origins of chemical and biological warfare from their ancient beginnings to the first major use of gas in 1915 in World War I, to more recent uses and suspicions of use. He also discusses ways in which disarmament efforts developed in tandem with the weapons themselves. Another focus of the book is biological and chemical terrorism and weapons proliferation. Spiers recommends greater information sharing on the local, state, federal, and international levels. He concludes that although a biological or chemical attack could present a worst-case scenario for many states, “worst-case scenarios…are rare events.” Nevertheless, he says, it is important that the United States and other countries examine ways to respond to and prevent such a scenario. —CAITLIN TABER