As bad as they are, why aren't terrorists worse? With biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons at hand, they easily could be. And, as this chilling book suggests, they soon may well be. A former member of the National Security Council staff, Jessica Stern guides us expertly through a post-Cold War world in which the threat of all-out nuclear war, devastating but highly unlikely, is being replaced by the less costly but much more imminent threat of terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction.
According to SternThe Ultimate Terrorists depicts a not-very-distant future in which both independent and state-sponsored terrorism using weapons of mass destruction could actually occur. But Stern also holds out hope for new technologies that might combat this trend, and for legal and political remedies that would improve public safety without compromising basic constitutional rights.
Jessica Stern teaches at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and is a former member of the staff of the National Security Council, where she ran the Nuclear Smuggling Interagency group as director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs.
[Stern's] research is breathtakingly thorough, and the prose, so often describing complex technological detail, surprisingly lucid. The era of 'the ultimate terrorists', implying nuclear, biological or chemical weapons may not yet have dawned in any real sense, but the potential and the danger, as this book illustrates, are all too obvious...[Stern] has written a valuable book that should serve as a timely warning about a potentially dreadful future.
The Times - Sean O'Callaghan
[A] thought provoking book...Stern's background in the security community, where she ran the Nuclear Smuggling Interagency Group, allows her to write with firsthand knowledge about the disturbing consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Having directed the group for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs, Stern places a particular emphasis on how volatile that region has become...Terrorism may always exist, but Stern's recommendation that we find ways to minimize its ability to cause horror, panic, and alarm might be the ultimate weapon against it.
Boston Book Review - Charles Davis
The ominous-sounding title The Ultimate Terrorists can't outweigh the balanced and blessedly concise arguments that Jessica Stern presents in the book itself. The threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has given rise to a panic industry; Stern has emerged as one of the few influential voices of calm.
Salon.com - Tim Cavanaugh
Jessica Stern examines why today's breed of clandestine bomb-throwers are actually more likely to use germs, chemicals or a bit of unguarded enriched uranium from Russia to make their point...[Terrorist] incidents have multiplied more than fivefold since the 1970s, and on average each terrorist now kills twice as many people. Where their old-fashioned counterparts wanted political concessions, many crazies not just want to kill people, or sow dread. There are few better ways to do the job than with germs and poisons. Stern shows how these, along with a simple nuclear device that scatters poisonous isotopes about, are ideal terrorist tools, to prey on humanity's fears.
New Scientist - Debora MacKenzie
In cool prose that never talks down to lay readers, Stern outlines the horrific effects of biological and chemical agents, making a thoroughly convincing case that a biochemical attack would be compounded by mass panic and a dangerous social breakdown... But even as Stern stokes fear, she also offers an extensive proposal for countering the new terrorism. Her proposals will not be for everyone but will surely provide substantial food for thought.
This important volume is powerfully suggestive of what in all probability will be a potent and dangerous force in the international arena during the coming century--terrorists willing and able to employ weapons of mass destruction in pursuit of their political and ideological aims...Stern has opened a door into a complex realm of politics and policy that defies easy categorization and crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. Explaining the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction necessarily involves a substantial degree of scientific and technical expertise, and the author wields this knowledge effectively.
American Diplomacy - David W. Thornton
[The Ultimate Terrorists] combine[s] serious scholarship with practical wisdom.
Foreign Affairs - Gideon Rose
This slender volume is largely free of hype, and is characterized by fair reporting and sober analysis...It presents an immensely valuable snapshot of where the world stands vis--vis the threat, and how the worst possibilities might be minimized.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Leonard A. Cole
This brief but surprisingly thorough book deals with the means, modes, and the likely terrorist actors in several situations...This is a serious book by an author with an intimate knowledge of her subject. Though not a lofty academic treatise, this important policy text gives the reader a reasoned, careful, and thoughtful glimpse into a dark corner of science, politics, and war. Strongly recommended for all libraries.
Choice - E. Lewis
[Stern's] expertise should convince policymakers of [her proposals'] wisdom, as well as raise public awareness of the danger.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor