The race against nuclear terror
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In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the issue of political violence expressed via mass destruction has raised security concerns to an unprecedented degree not seen since the end of the Cold War. As a principal adversary, the Soviet Union has been replaced by terror networks applying asymmetric warfare to achieve politically charged or ideologically driven objectives. A scenario whereby non-state actors would acquire a nuclear capability not only threatens the security of the United States, but would destabilize the Westphalian notion of the primacy of nation-states within the international system. Despite U.S. expenditures of over $86 million to help nearly 30 countries worldwide in preventing the smuggling of weapons-useable radiological materials, over 20 known cases of such activity were reported between 1992 and 2001. Previous research has concentrated on a singularly defined threat: The Rogue State. Today's challenges are characterized by more defused, decentralized networks, to include transnational actors with the potential to proliferate and supply terrorists with a nuclear weapon or weapons-grade radiological material. This thesis examines the applicability of traditional Cold War strategies such as deterrence, pre-emption, prevention, and coercive diplomacy in the present context, to deny extremist groups and associated networks the means to buy, steal, or make nuclear and radiological weapons. This thesis proposes a multi-dimensional approach in support of mixed-strategies for winning the race against nuclear terror. The author contends that terrorist groups cannot acquire nuclear or radiological technology without the witting or unwitting support of state actors.
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