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Nuclear Proliferation for the Rich and For the Poor
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by William Langewiesche
The Atomic Bazaar:  The Rise of the Nuclear Poor (NY:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  179p.)

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This is an excellent review of the progress towards Nuclear Nonproliferation, and the process of poor countries to obtain nuclear weapons or develop them in defiance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  The core focus becomes the development of a nuclear bomb project in Pakistan and its funding by selling the technology and becoming a conduit for components worldwide.

Langewiesche provides a fascinating, well-documented story.  Personalities are developed and the book reads like a suspense thriller.  The author provides background histories and scenarios of the persons and countries that play in this scenario.  This provides substance and context for the events and the connections involved in the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.

One secondary theme is the limited value of these weapons in the real-world scenarios of threat and counter-threat and the difficulty of using them in defense of a homeland.  In repelling an invader, the local population, a government could not risk detonating a nuclear bomb on its own soil.

Further, deterrence and counter-threat would require a full arsenal, not just one or two bombs.  This means an impossibly expensive proposition.  Part of the travesty he discusses is how impoverished nations proceed to finagle ways to finance such programs while they cannot even feed their population, often for the simple prestige of having nuclear weapons.

Related to this, perhaps the most enlightening insight through this book is the revelation of the culture of fear over the effect of runaway atomic bomb development, is that the difficulties and expense assure that the real danger is minimal.  The concern is discussed in the context of an enormous body of facts evaluating the comparative results of attacks by atomic or conventional weapons.

From extensive technical and governmental sources available, the author concludes that the odds are very low that a weapon could be functional, and that its effect is considerably less than traditional hysteria has led us to believe.

Beyond the physical and geographical logistics against the production of atomic weapons by a even a worldwide network of terrorists, the actual effect of atomic explosions is actually less than can already be attained by cheaper, easily-available conventional weapons.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Blessèd Assurance:  At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas   
[review] Countering the Atomic Fear Factor

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Initial reading notes written 23 December 2009
Review developed and posted on Amazon and OJTR 28 December 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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