In This Review

A Perpetual Menace: Nuclear Weapons and International Order (Routledge Global Security Studies)
A Perpetual Menace: Nuclear Weapons and International Order (Routledge Global Security Studies)
By William Walker
Routledge, 2011, 256 pp

It seems likely that humanity will be stuck in the nuclear age for some time to come. But will we survive it? Seven decades since the development of nuclear weapons began in earnest, their use has been confined to the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. But there have been close calls since then. Meanwhile, remedies such as world government or complete disarmament seem ever more unlikely or utopian. Survival has come to depend on a messy concoction of self-restraint and normative limits, reinforced by a shared instinct for self-preservation. In a subtle analysis of the history of the nuclear order, Walker charts the stresses and strains to which the system has been subjected. Most recently, the main challenge has come from broad power shifts in the international system and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by unstable states. Walker considers measures to shore up the system, such as reforming the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Yet his basic conclusion is that states will have little choice but to continue to “muddle through.”