Critical Mass: The Dangerous Race for Superweapons in a Fragmenting World

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Critical Mass: The Dangerous Race for Superweapons in a Fragmenting World

By William E. Burrows and Robert Windrem
Simon & Schuster, 1994
573 pp. $25.00
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This book, which alternates in tone between shrill moralism and technical fascination, offers a survey of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and some of the means of their long-range delivery. All of the usual suspects show up: Palestinian terrorists dreaming of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Russian arms dealers out to make a quick buck, Gerald Bull in pursuit of the ultimate long-range cannon, the slippery bankers of BCCI, Saddam Hussein in quest of regional hegemony, and secretive South African nuclear physicists, among others. There is a lot of interesting material here, although the citation is sloppy and often refers to well-placed sources or reportage that has come in for severe criticism (Seymour Hersh's account of the Israeli nuclear program in The Samson Option, for example). In a curious and unconvincing mixture of credulity and panic, the book concludes that mutual trust must therefore replace mutual assured destruction everywhere.

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