Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
By The National Research Council, Committee on Science and Tech
National Academy Press, 2002, 440 pp.
This ponderous volume, covering everything from power plants to robotics, information technology to food safety, will be of interest to experts in each of the various subfields. But even for nonspecialist readers, there is something here of deeper interest; call it the sociology of mobilization. Granted, there is enormous technical expertise mixed with banal platitudes ("more research is needed," "government agencies should coordinate better," "less dangerous technologies should be investigated," etc.), not to mention wildly ambitious intellectual claims. One should be wary of a book with a section on "counterterrorism threat modeling" that has, at the center of an obscure diagram, a goose egg labeled "state of the world." But these flaws aside, the volume imparts a sense of the extraordinary range of talents and resources that the United States can bring to bear to counter or mitigate horrible new threats. The potential power of this country, defensive as well as offensive, is enormous. Yet one wonders whether the government will mobilize it effectively before another devastating blow falls.