Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fighting the Barbarians

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s article on terrorism is reminiscent of Trotsky’s observation that you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you:

Rather than try to steal or buy one of thousands of Russian tactical nukes, or nerve gas artillery shells, a WMD terrorist is far more likely to knock off the night watchman, lower the chain-link fence somewhere in Switzerland or Italy and drive off with sufficient materials for a nuclear device. Actually making a nuclear bomb after that is the easy part; the recipe is on the Internet.

Mr. Nunn, chairman of the board of trustees at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says we appear to have forgotten the "devastating, world-changing impact of a nuclear [terrorist] attack. "If a 10-kiloton nuclear device goes off in Midtown Manhattan on a typical work day, it could kill more than half a million people," he explains. Ten kiloton is a plausible yield "for a crude terrorist bomb," according to Mr. Nunn.

Hauling that volume of explosives would require a freight train 100 cars long. As a nuclear bomb, it could easily fit on the back of a pickup truck.

Another Nunn scenario has a terrorist group with insider help acquiring a radiological source from an industrial or medical facility; say cesium-137 in the form of powdered cesium chloride. Conventional explosives are used to incorporate cesium into a "dirty bomb," then detonated in New York's financial district. A 60-square block area has to be evacuated. Millions flee the city in panic. Only two dozen are killed but billions of dollars of real estate is declared uninhabitable. Cleanup will take years -- and many more billions.

No comments: