Experts in and out of government, intelligence analysts, pundits, and presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle are virtually unanimous in their judgment that nuclear terrorism is a real and present danger. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained, “Every senior leader, when asked ‘What keeps you awake at night?’ agrees it’s the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.” Skeptics, however, abound. The most vocal of them has been John Mueller, a distinguished scholar of international relations who has made important contributions to our understanding of public opinion during wartime, and of the utility of war itself. In contrast to prevailing views, he makes three key claims: (1) the nuclear intent and capability of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda has “been substantially exaggerated,” (2) “the likelihood a terrorist group will come up with an atomic bomb seems to be vanishingly small,” and (3) policymakers are guilty of an “atomic obsession” that has led to “substantively counterproductive” policies premised on “worst case fantasies.”
Allison, Graham. "A Response to Nuclear Terrorism Skeptics." Brown Journal of World Affairs. Fall/Winter 2010.