In the previous issue of The National Interest, John Mueller argued that the threats from nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war are exaggerated. Rather, we may pose the greatest threat to ourselves: the price we pay for making nuclear weapons the "supreme priority" carries a hefty price in money and in lives. Graham Allison, Joseph Cirincione and William Potter weigh in. Mueller has the last word.
The Three "Nos" Knows
"RADIOACTIVE HYPE" by John Mueller sharpens the barbs from his recent book, Overblown, in ways that demonstrate that he is, above all, a committed contrarian. One can agree with many points in his article and book. But his central propositions about the danger and appropriate responses to terrorism, nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are profoundly mistaken. Specifically, "Radioactive Hype" argues that:
-"Threat-mongers"-for which the 9/11 Commission, my book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe and presidential candidates of both parties are the poster children-have greatly exaggerated the threat of terrorists exploding a nuclear weapon in one of our cities.
-An "obsessive quest to control nuclear proliferation-particularly since the end of the Cold War-has been substantially counterproductive."
-This "nuclear obsession" drove the United States into "the current disastrous Iraq War" and now threatens war with Iran.
Given the space allotted, my response to each proposition must be abridged but will reference my earlier work on this topic and other analyses from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where these issues are addressed in greater depth.1