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The Rise of Nuclear Fear

by

The Rise of Nuclear Fear Cover

 

 

Excerpt

<p>From <b>Chapter 23: </b><b><i>Tyrants and Terrorists</i></b></p><p><b><i> </i></b>It was only one bomb, small enough to fit in the trunk of a car. A band of fanatics stole it from the Israelis, smuggled it into the United States, and exploded it in a football stadium to kill tens of thousands. That was the centerpiece of a best- selling 1991 novel and popular 2002 movie, <b>The Sum of All Fears</b>. Between the book and the movie the terrorist band changed from Palestinians to neo- Nazis while the stadium moved from Denver to Baltimore; but the details hardly mattered. In the many stories with a similar plot, bomb materials could be stolen from Americans or Russians; the catastrophe could be planned for Los Angeles or Miami. What did matter were two familiar themes: the proliferation of bombs in nations around the world, and evildoers intent on blowing things up. These themes were becoming inseparably entangled. The Second Nuclear Age had begun with a decade of release from the anxieties of the Cold War, but by the</p><p> late 1990s nuclear fear was on the rise again.</p><p> </p><p> From 1945 through the 1980s, when people worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons their main concern had been that nations would use the bombs in war. If Argentina or South Africa showed an interest in getting nuclear bombs, its aim would be to threaten, deter, or defeat neighboring states. These, it was presumed, would hasten to get their own bombs in turn. But it didn&rsquo;t happen. Proliferation, as one scholar pointed out in 2009, proceeded &ldquo;at a far more leisurely pace than generations of alarmists</p><p> have routinely and urgently anticipated.&rdquo; And careful study showed that aside from the United States and the Soviet Union, the few cases in which a nation did get its own bombs turned out &ldquo;to have had remarkably limited, perhaps even imperceptible, consequences.&rdquo; Nobody was successfully threatened, deterred, or defeated by the bombs.</p><p> <b> . . .</b></p><p><b> </b></p><p> Traditionally people had a hard time imagining that any actual terrorist would wish to take lives not just a few at a time, but by thousands or millions: surely so dark a desire was not humanly possible? That hope was overthrown by events. The first serious blow came in 1995, when members of a large Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, released poison gas in a coordinated attack on five subway trains in Tokyo. The gas killed a dozen people and harmed hundreds, but the cult had intended to kill far more; their ultimate</p><p> aim was nothing less than global apocalypse. If anyone still doubted that a fanatic group could mobilize the will and means to kill on a very large scale, they were answered by Al Qaeda in the September 11 attacks.</p><p> </p><p> I think the destruction of New York&rsquo;s World Trade Center had its deepest impact on people by showing that horrors of human intention that had seemed incredible must be taken as facts. As one nuclear authority put it shortly afterward, &ldquo;The willingness of terrorists to commit suicide to achieve their evil aims makes the nuclear terrorist threat far more likely than it was before September 11.&rdquo; A writer reflecting back on events went further: &ldquo;The reason 9/11 was so traumatizing for all of us, I believe, is that</p><p> the vision we all had of the World Trade Center collapsing in a horrible cloud&mdash; for us it was effectively the mushroom cloud that we have been dreading for a generation.&rdquo;</p><p> </p><p> Many noted that the incessantly televised pictures of airplanes attacking buildings, billowing clouds of dust, and smoking wreckage resonated with familiar imagery of bombardment. Reporters immediately used the language long associated with nuclear apocalypse: &ldquo;gates of hell,&rdquo; &ldquo;like a nuclear winter.&rdquo; Within a few days the site of the New York attack was universally called &ldquo;Ground Zero.&rdquo; The phrase had originated in Los Alamos around 1945, reflecting the technical significance of the distance</p><p> in thousands of feet from the point directly below an exploding atomic bomb. In New York it stood for a more mythic zero: an Empty Zone of total destruction, as in the familiar photographs of Hiroshima.</p>

Product Details

ISBN:
9780674052338
Author:
Weart, Spencer R.
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Location:
Cambridge
Subject:
History
Subject:
Energy-Nuclear Engineering
Subject:
History, Modern -- 20th century.
Subject:
HISTORY / Social History
Subject:
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Power Resources / Nuclear
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20120319
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Engineering » History
History and Social Science » Politics » Peace and War
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Science and Mathematics » Electricity » General Electronics
Science and Mathematics » Energy » Nuclear Engineering
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Textbooks » General

The Rise of Nuclear Fear New Trade Paper
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Product details 384 pages Harvard University Press - English 9780674052338 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant had a meltdown, protesters around the world challenged nuclear power. Climate change has never aroused this visceral dread. Weart dissects this paradox, showing that powerful images surrounding nuclear energy hold us captive, allowing fear, rather than facts, to drive our thinking and public policy.
"Synopsis" by , A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2012
"Synopsis" by , A Physics Today Top 5 Books of 2012 Selection
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