Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu


Countering the Atomic Fear Factor
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by John Mueller
Atomic Obsession (Oxford/NY:  Oxford University Press, 2010.  320p.)

See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site

The full title of this book is Atomic Obsession:  Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda.  This was a challenging and very interesting work.  The writer reviews every aspect of atomic weapons, their production and presence and the question of proliferation.  The overwhelming findings he presents here are surprising.

Mueller's premise is that there is not actually a constant and present danger that atomic weapons will be used, even by terrorists.  Because all the prominent viewpoints we hear are just short of hysteria in the fear that some rogue nation or individual terrorist organization will destroy cities or nations, this was a challenging perspective.

He details the practical and economic factors involved, to determine that more destruction can be accomplished with current conventional weapons, much cheaper, mitigating against the desire to go the atomic direction.

I was wary at first and was suspicious of the underlying perspective.  He is not a fear monger, but rather trying to dispel the fear fostered among the public by the US government and some circles in the scientific community.  But I found this a highly reflective and reasoned volume, not a radicalized diatribe.

As I continued to read, I realized this writer has done on-the-spot research over a long period.  He quotes not only from technical studies, but includes many public pronouncements and discussions from various government personnel, and includes quotes from his own interviews with insiders on the science and politics sides of the question of atomic weapons and their proliferation.

Great detail and statistics, reports and quotes from all kinds of scientists and government officials are organized here to present the picture of how minimal the chances are of anyone actually using an atomic bomb.  The cost of care, maintenance and security, besides the sophistication of production facilities, means even governments will have trouble affording production.  One bomb is not much good, so the cost of a whole arsenal is involved.

One of the interesting perspectives he provides is the many negative consequences for using them that mitigate the value of using them.  He takes a historical perspective going period by period from the beginning of the atomic age.  Very thoughtful study.

He includes evaluation of the possibilities terrorists might use one on the US or other place, and cites a mountain of facts and analyses that indicate it is so expensive and the atomic explosions are actually so ineffective, plus the logistics of getting and actually making it, that the chances are basically nil.

Mueller provides an interesting balance to the fear hype we hear so much, especially in the Bush administration.  Still some of that around in this administration.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Blessèd Assurance:  At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas   
[review] Nuclear Proliferation for the Rich and For the Poor

See this book with my review on Amazon.com
See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site
See my reading lists
Many other books have review notes with the reading list entry


Initial reading notes written 21 December 2009
Reviewed on Amazon 22 December 2009
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 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
Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu

filename:  muelleratomicobsession.html