IS THE UNITED STATES PREPARED FOR THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM? AN ANALYSIS OF CURRENT SAFEGUARDS AND POLICIES
Noe, Jeremy Cullen
IS THE UNITED STATES PREPARED FOR THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM? AN ANALYSIS OF CURRENT SAFEGUARDS AND POLICIESJeremy Cullen Noe, B.A.MALS Mentor: Nicholas Palarino, Ph.D.ABSTRACTThe threat of nuclear terrorism has been around since the beginning of the nuclear age. Scholars and policymakers have debated over the probability that terrorists could construct a nuclear device and detonate it in a major urban city. That possibility has many worried that nuclear proliferation in unstable countries will increase the likelihood of nuclear material getting into the wrong hands. Therefore, many departments and agencies within the U.S. government have been created to confront the nuclear threat. Agencies like the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the National Counterterrorism Center are tasked with the accountability of the nations' nuclear arsenal in addition to defending against non-state actors smuggling radiological material into the country.The problem for policymakers is defensive measures aimed at nuclear terrorism are only one half of the equation. U.S. policies also play a role in nonproliferation efforts around the world. The message that we send regarding our commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is just as important as our ability to counter an attack. In order to be prepared for the threat of nuclear terrorism the policies adopted by the United States should complement programs and technologies designed to thwart terrorists seeking to cause mass destruction.The purpose of my thesis will be to compare the United States domestic security architecture with its policies to make a determination about America's level of preparedness. My methodology includes an analysis of nuclear terrorism, starting with a discussion on the various stages and difficulties that would confront a terrorist seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Also presented is a section on the psychology of nuclear terrorism that incorporates the internal dynamics of terrorist organizations to investigate what motivates a group to seek nuclear arms. Next is an examination of U.S. departments and agencies responsible for intercepting potential terrorists at each stage of building a bomb. And finally, U.S. policy is compared to those efforts to find out if U.S. diplomacy reflects America's commitment to nonproliferation, or if it actually encourages the problem.After a thorough assessment of U.S. measures to prevent nuclear terrorism my research has led me to the conclusion that a dichotomy exists between the policy and practices of the United States government. On the one hand we have dramatically increased our security infrastructure since 9/11, which has given policymakers the illusion that we are capable of stopping nuclear terrorism. In contrast, the guiding principle in American nuclear strategy has been to enforce a nonproliferation regime that discriminates between nuclear and non-nuclear states. Additionally, the U.S. government has not been consistent in its enforcement of counterproliferation goals. Some nations have been given preferential treatment, while others are threatened and punished for their behavior. The result has been states that do not take U.S. nonproliferation efforts seriously, undermining attempts to stop the global spread of nuclear weapons.
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