“Death tugs at my ear and says, ‘Live, I am coming.’” Were Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. alive today, he might ascribe that line not to death but to nuclear terrorism.
Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have had to live with the knowledge that the next time the terrorists strike, it could be not with airplanes capable of killing thousands but atomic bombs capable of killing hundreds of thousands.
The prospect has created a sense of profound vulnerability. It has shaped our view of government policies aimed at combating terrorism (filtered through Jack Bauer). It helped mobilize support for the Iraq war.
Why are we worried? Bomb designs can be found on the Internet. Fissile material may be smuggled out of Russia. Iran, a longtime sponsor of terrorist groups, is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. A layperson may figure it’s only a matter of time before the unimaginable comes to pass. Harvard’s Graham Allison, in his book “Nuclear Terrorism,” concludes, “On the current course, nuclear terrorism is inevitable.”
But remember: After Sept. 11, 2001, we all thought more attacks were a certainty. Yet al-Qaida and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.
CONTINUED at Reason.