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The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear…
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The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor

by William Langewiesche

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Fascinating analysis on the underground of nuclear trafficking. Langewiesche analyzes the skill set a group of terrorists would need to have in order to get a hold of and detonate a nuclear bomb. He only lost me when he got technical on the bombs themselves, but he managed to keep things relatively accessible even to a technoidiot like me.

Yet he doesn't play down the threat. America and Russia we don't really need to worry about; the failsafes in place (even on the bombs themselves) make it extremely difficult for terrorist organizations to have the necessary skill set and resources. Now if Iran builds a bomb, we may have a different set of problems. ( )
  stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
The contents of the book were not really anything of note: nuclear bombs bad, rogue states or organizations with nuclear bombs badder. The narration was even worse. I don't need the reader to break into his worst Boris and Natasha Russian accent every time he quotes a Russian general. Frankly, anyone listening to a book about nuclear proliferation should be able to figure it out from the leading phrase "The Russian General said:..." It just became insulting after a while... ( )
  ScoutJ | Apr 27, 2013 |
The section on A. Q. Khan and how he managed to build a bomb is interesting but on the whole, apart from the odd titbit here and there there really wasn't a whole lot new or particularly revelatory in this book. Langewiesche's presentation of nuclear weapons as the great equalizer (with increasing potential of becoming 'the great leveller') in the international system was interesting but not particularly novel. Nor does he really tackle the idea in any kind of depth. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Sep 19, 2012 |
Langewiesche is one of my favorite writers of nonfiction because of his uncanny ability to explain complex events in a succinct, lucid manner -- he has made a specialty of covering disaster investigations. In this little gem of reportage, he turns his attention to "loose nukes". The first part of the book looks at the challenges a terrorist group would face in obtaining and detonating a nuclear weapon. In the second part we get a concise history of the A. Q. Kahn network operating (unofficially?) out of Pakistan, and more generally, of the "democratization" of nuclear arms race. Langewiesche's conclusion is that, while we may be less likely to see nuclear war on the apocalyptic scale threatened during the Cold War, the world may well see a devastating regional conflict as outmoded anti-proliferation accords become less and less effective. [Chris Wilcox CITY LIGHTS BOOKSTORE 9/09] ( )
  wilpotts | Sep 29, 2009 |
As much as I already respected Langewiesche, I was pleasantly surprised by the investigative journalism skills and the feel for South Asia displayed in the long piece on Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold atomic weapons' technology to North Korea, Iran and your neighborhood grocer. On par with Mark Bowden or Steve Coll, who have come up through more traditional (that is, newspaper) apprenticeships.

Was the technology sold with the knowledge, cooperation or endorsement of Pakistan's military or govt? Some knew, some made money. Whose job is it to decide the merits of such trade in the first place?

The lines are awfully blurry in developing countries, especially blurred in Pakistan. In India, I also observed that intense, chilling national pride in having built and tested an atomic bomb. The pride in a citizen who could create such a death machine. The cost in such poor countries doesn't matter any more than the increased vulnerability.

He also explains something we living in Third World countries know intuitively but can't quite articulate ...why the risk of war (in this case, between India and Pakistan) is so much higher in dictatorships and developing countries. They don't have the command and control systems. The likelihood of crappy intel and reflexive responses are so much higher. There was the time when Pakistan went on alert believing, from Saudi sources, that bombers from Israel were on the way to Pakistan--on the behalf of India! Fortunately, Pakistani leaders did a little checking with US and European sources ...

Probably newer, more shocking news is how Khan got the knowledge and technology for building Pakistan's bomb in the first place. He gathered this, with few obstacles, while he was working in the Netherlands, where he had acquired a graduate education in engineering and married a Dutch woman. How he was able to shop the world--Germany, in particular-- that's a whole 'nother scandal. It's similar to the shopping described by the physicist charged with building Saddam's nuclear weapons.

However, there is a slightly optimistic twist to the final piece, which attempts to answer the question: could non-state players like al-Queda build a bomb? It would be difficult. WL walks through getting the material, moving it around, what country would want to host such an operation?... I think biological weapons would be a better/more likely option. And a war would be most likely between states like Pakistan and India. He doesn't spend enough time considering North Korea's worldview and what South Korea's strategy is, however. ( )
  Periodista | Sep 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374106789, Hardcover)

In his shocking and revelatory new work, the celebrated journalist William Langewiesche investigates the burgeoning global threat of nuclear weapons production. This is the story of the inexorable drift of nuclear weapons technology from the hands of the rich into the hands of the poor. As more unstable and undeveloped nations find ways of acquiring the ultimate arms, the stakes of state-sponsored nuclear activity have soared to frightening heights. Even more disturbing is the likelihood of such weapons being manufactured and deployed by guerrilla non-state terrorists.
 
Langewiesche also recounts the recent history of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist at the forefront of nuclear development and trade in the Middle East who masterminded the theft and sale of centrifuge designs that helped to build Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and who single-handedly peddled nuclear plans to North Korea, Iran, and other potentially hostile countries. He then examines in dramatic and tangible detail the chances for nuclear terrorism.
 
From Hiroshima to the present day, Langewiesche describes a reality of urgent consequence to us all. This searing, provocative, and timely report is a triumph of investigative journalism, and a masterful laying out of the most critical political problem the world now faces.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Journalist Langewiesche investigates the burgeoning global threat of nuclear weapons production. This is the story of the inexorable drift of nuclear weapons technology from the hands of the rich into the hands of the poor. As more unstable and undeveloped nations find ways of acquiring the ultimate arms, the stakes of state-sponsored nuclear activity have soared to frightening heights. Even more disturbing is the likelihood of such weapons being manufactured and deployed by guerrilla non-state terrorists. Langewiesche also recounts the recent history of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist at the forefront of nuclear development and trade in the Middle East who masterminded the theft and sale of centrifuge designs that helped to build Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and who single-handedly peddled nuclear plans to North Korea, Iran, and other potentially hostile countries. He then examines in dramatic and tangible detail the chances for nuclear terrorism.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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