Book - MIT Press

America's Achilles' Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack


"I know of no more incisive, detailed assessment of the growing threat of mass destruction terrorism than America''s Achilles'' Heel. This outstanding book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in American national security."
— U.S. Senator Richard Lugar

"An excellent and timely study that neither exaggerates nor underestimates the prospect of terrorist use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The authors'' assessment of the threat is the most thorough, careful, and objective analysis available. If policymakers want to anticipate and prepare sensibly for a danger that becomes more real and present by the day, they should consult this book''s recommendations."

--Martha Crenshaw, Professor of Government, Wesleyan University

"This is a superb study: exhaustive, clear, prescriptive. America''s Achilles'' Heel is must reading for anyone who wishes to understand the most serious post-Cold War threat to American national security."
--R. James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, 1995-97

"The end result of the Cold War, paradoxically, is both greater security -- from the threat of all out nuclear war -- and greater instability -- from possible terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction against American cities. This book offers useful policy options for coping with this new and perilous threat, without abandoning our cherished civil liberties."

--Sam Nunn, U.S. Senator, 1972-97

"A deeply informed, sober, comprehensive and enlightened analysis of the threat from and policy responses to NBC terrorism."

--Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Laureate and President Emeritus, Rockefeller University

Nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons delivered covertly by terrorists or hostile governments pose a significant and growing threat to the United States and other countries. Although the threat of NBC attack is widely recognized as a central national security issue, most analysts have assumed that the primary danger is military use by states in war, with traditional military means of delivery. The threat of covert attack has been imprudently neglected.

Covert attack is hard to deter or prevent, and NBC weapons suitable for covert attack are available to a growing range of states and groups hostile to the United States. At the same time, constraints on their use appear to be eroding. This volume analyzes the nature and limits of the covert NBC threat and proposes a measured set of policy responses, focused on improving intelligence and consequence-management capabilities to reduce U.S. vulnerability.

Richard A. Falkenrath is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He served as Executive Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) and, before that, as a Research Fellow. He is the author and co-author of Shaping Europe's Military Order (1995), Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy (1996), America's Achilles' Heel:Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack (1998), and numerous journal articles and chapters of edited volumes. Falkenrath has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the German Society of Foreign Affairs (DGAP) in Bonn. He holds a PhD from the Department of War Studies, King's College, London, where he was a British Marshall Scholar, and is a summa cum laude graduate of Occidental College, Los Angeles, with degrees in economics and international relations. He is currently serving as Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Policy and Plans, Office of Homeland Security.

Bradley A. Thayer is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

About This Book

America's Achilles' Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman, and Bradley A. Thayer. America's Achilles' Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, .

The Authors

Richard A. Falkenrath