War, Science, and Terrorism: From Laboratory to Open Conflict
By Jacques Richardson
Frank Cass, 2002, 342 pp.
The Final Frontier: America, Science, and Terror
By Dominick Jenkins
Verso, 2002, 312 pp.
Two quite different books with similar titles. Jenkins' confused, sprawling, and exasperating book contains an interesting case study that dissects the overwrought depictions of future war that American scientists promoted after World War I, as they advanced the claims of airpower's new technologies and the potential of chemical weapons. This story is unfortunately lost amid Jenkins' convoluted social theory, extensive historical excursions, dubious contemporary parallels, a predictably green political philosophy, and disastrous proposals for scientific endeavor to be directed in support of this philosophy.
Richardson's book is much more useful, although it also suffers from excessive ambition. He tries to capture the complex interaction between military affairs and science, including the social sciences, taking in everything from battle management to weapons technology. He also takes a post-September 11 look forward, even if the prominence given to terrorism in the title reflects more the opportunism of publishers than the book's content. With so much to pack in, the result is largely descriptive, albeit well informed. Unlike Jenkins, Richardson accepts the need to apply science to military purposes; although aware of the dangers, he also points to science's benefits for civil society.