Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dr. Strangelove is alive and well

Winter readings on thwarted visions of an end to atomic weapons

The current turmoil in Pakistan is a reminder that when a state that develops and deploys atomic weapons as part of its deterrence strategy unravels, that the rest of the world shudders in fear of what might happen if the wrong people get their hands on them.

Worse, Pakistan is the source of a proliferation strategy to other states, some equally unstable, that looks like they handed out nuclear bomb technologies as if they were boxes of girl scout cookies. International controls through the IAEA evidently meant nothing to Pakistan nor the countries that bought weapons designs and components from them.

A lot has been written about Abdul Qadeer Khan's sale of nuclear technologies to rogue nations. It is no secret since he came clean, so to speak, in 2004. He's like a character out of the movie Dr. Strangelove, which mocks the nuclear menace while warning us about it. The noble vision of Isaiah of turning swords into plowshares has taken a beating lately.

Some of the most interesting descriptions of Kahn's mind boggling exploits come in the form of books. Here's a wrap-up on that and much else in the world of worthwhile winter reading on the bomb. Links to the Amazon Books web site page for each book are included below.

A short 2008 nonproliferation book list

Deception - Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons; by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, 586 pp. Amazon

The Nuclear Jihadist - the True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secret and How We Could Have Stopped Him; by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, 413 pp. Amazon

America and the Islamic Bomb - the Deadly Compromise; by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, 292 pp. Amazon

The 7th Decade - the New Shape of Nuclear Danger; Jonathan Schell, 251 pp. Amazon

Arsenals of Folly - the Making of the Nuclear Arms Race; Richard Rhodes, 386 pp. Amazon

Links to Book Reviews

If you want more than the publisher's blurbs on these books, they're gotten a fair amount of ink in major newspapers. Here are a few links to book reviews about them to get you going.
  • Smoking Guns & Mushroom Clouds, Martin Walker, the New York Times Book Review 11/25/07

  • A.Q. Khan's Atomic Vision, Douglas Farah, the Washington Post, 11/18/07
  • Four Accounts Addressing Nuclear Nonproliferation, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, the Los Angeles Times, 12/23/07
Putting Things in Perspective

If you want an expert analyst's view of the prospects for advances or failures in nuclear nonproliferation, you can read a thoughtful and clearly written list by Joseph Cirincione on the top nuclear arms issues of 2007. Several of the issues on his list were covered on this blog including the now mostly shredded deal with India and Israel's mysterious attack on a purported Syrian nuclear facility. To read the multiple posts on these issues just plug the word 'India nuclear' or 'Israel nuclear' into the search box over in the left column (without the quote marks).

Finally, if you want to learn more about the current state of confusion in the world of nonproliferation, you can link to the Carnegie Endowment's portal page on this issue which includes an annual report, email list and RSS feed for updates, and a Global Proliferation Status Map. It's useful and nonpartisan content for anyone who follows these issues.

Bloggers on Nonprolifertion

Check the list on the left column of this blog under the heading "Plutonium Politics" for some excellent bloggers on this subject.

I'll close by including a pointer to my favorite blog post of the year on nonproliferation in which the North Korean's talked the U.S. into giving it back $25 million gained through various international illicit operations and failed to keep any of the promises it made in return.

No comments: