|Oxford University Press|
the guardian Tue 01 May 2012
In May 1945, Robert Oppenheimer told fellow Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard that "the atomic bomb is shit. It will make a big bang but it is not a weapon which is useful in war." Mueller's language is less colourful but his view is the same: not only have nuclear weapons had very little impact on the course of history, but "excessive anxiety" about them has distorted spending priorities and led to antiproliferation wars, as in Iraq, that have caused more deaths "than have been inflicted by all nuclear detonations in history". At times Mueller's attempts to deflate what he calls the "hype and hysteria" are reminiscent of Strangelovian scientists such as Edward Teller. But his attack on the post-9/11 alarmist rhetoric is welcome. Mueller claims there is no black market in nuclear materials, there are no "loose nukes", and probably no substance to claims that al-Qaida ever wanted a nuclear device. If Iran does develop an A-bomb, says Mueller, it will find that it is "essentially useless and a very considerable waste of money and effort".