Jeffrey LewisNuclear Terrorism Event at CATO

Loyal readers may know John Mueller, who holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at The Ohio State University. (I know, that’s so awesome.)

Mueller is rather less worried than I about an instance of nuclear terrorism — he’s also less worried about proliferation, arms races or any prospect of nuclear use at all. Mueller has a very provocative new book, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al Qaeda, in which he suggests that what he calls nuclear alarmism distorts our national security policy.

On October 29, Michael Krepon and I will serve as discussants. Michael is author of wonderful, Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb, which is a nice counterpoint to Mueller’s book in terms of striking the right balance between concern and hype.

Anyway, the meeting is a welcome chance for me to try out some ideas that I’ve been working on as part of a New America Foundation effort on reframing what used to be called the G-WOT.

Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al Qaeda
(Oxford University Press, 2009)

Thursday, October 29, 2009
11:00 AM (Luncheon to Follow)

Featuring the author, John Mueller, Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies, Ohio State University; Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, Henry L. Stimson Center; and Jeffrey G. Lewis, Director, Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative, New America Foundation. Moderated by Justin Logan, Associate Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Having informed readers in previous books that their fears of war and terrorism are overblown, iconoclastic political scientist John Mueller has set his sights on nuclear weapons. For Mueller, nuclear weapons have never represented much of a threat given states’ fundamental unwillingness to use them. Moreover, our current worries about terrorists obtaining such weapons are essentially baseless. As Mueller points out, there is a multitude of reasons why terrorists will not be able to obtain nuclear weapons, much less build them themselves and successfully transport them to targets. Atomic Obsession concludes with a judgment that our efforts to prevent the spread of WMDs have produced much more suffering and violence than would have been the case if we took a more realistic view of such weapons.

Please join us for a discussion of this provocative new book.

Cato events, unless otherwise noted, are free of charge. To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email, fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by 11:00 AM, Wednesday, October 28, 2009 . Please arrive early. Seating is limited and not guaranteed. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200.


  1. Martin Dirksen (History)

    Dear Jeffrey, Sure I will be unable to attend, the way is too long from Germany. But I would appreciate a lenghty report from the event-if possible.
    Sincerly Yours!
    Martin Dirksen

  2. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    I think there might be something to this. Every administration, diplomat, and employee of the State Dept or think tank wants to be the next George [Kennan]. Who would not want to sculpt history? But let’s face it most times, thank goodness, don’t call for such a level of statesmanship. Look at the massive American blunder in its reaction to 9/11. Instead of covert ops and international police roundup/assassination campaign with trials, executions and jail time. We got WWII lite complete with allies and even the invocation of article 5 of the NATO treaty. It seems as if Americans have lost all sense of proportion.

    Furthermore I wonder what diplomats had more effect in preventing the Cold War going hot? The diplomats who dealt with nuclear weapons, or the ones who dealt with the day to day grind of the conventional standoff in Europe?

    Visions of a poly nuclear world always end in mushroom clouds. They do for me too. But let’s face it, nuclear proliferation won’t be turned off. Time to start thinking of what the world will look like with quite a few bombs under a lot of different commands.


  3. Kingston (History)

    Great picture from that infamous bowl game against Clemson! Here’s the video of the actual punch: