Contemporary Nuclear Debates

From Washington Quarterly Readers

Contemporary Nuclear Debates

Missile Defenses, Arms Control, and Arms Races in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Alexander T.J. Lennon

Discussions of key domestic and international aspects of missile defense, arms control, and arms races.





Discussions of key domestic and international aspects of missile defense, arms control, and arms races.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in the hands of both states and terrorist networks, is considered by many to be the greatest threat to global security today. Contemporary Nuclear Debates discusses the key issues surrounding that threat.

The book is divided into four parts. Part I, "US National Missile Defense: When and How?" presents an overview of the missile defense debate and examines the merits of different deployment systems, such as sea-based, space-based, and boost-phase. Part II, "Global Perceptions of Missile Defense," goes beyond the standard debate about the risks and benefits of missile defenses to examine the specific potential reactions of major countries, including China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia. Part III, "Do Arms Races Matter Anymore?" asks which countries, if any, have the capability to conduct an arms race with the United States, whether any country would choose to do so, and what weapons a country might build in response to a US missile defense deployment. Part IV, "Is Arms Control Dead?" discusses the circumstances under which arms control is useful today, new principles upon which it can be based, and new visions for its future.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262621663 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Alexander T.J. Lennon

Alexander T. J. Lennon is the editor-in-chief of The Washington Quarterly, the flagship journal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is also a fellow in the international security program at CSIS, and an adjunct professor in Georgetown University's Security Studies program. He is the editor of The Epicenter of Crisis: The New Middle East; Reshaping Rogue States (MIT Press, 2008): Preemption, Regime Change, and U.S. Policy Toward Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (MIT Press, 2004); The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Using Soft Power to Undermine Terrorist Networks (MIT Press, 2003), What Does the World Want from America? and Contemporary Nuclear Debates (MIT Press, both 2002), and the coeditor (with Michael T. Mazarr) of Toward a Nuclear Peace (St. Martin's Press, 1994).


  • The problem of how to cope with catastrophic threats to our security will not be solved when al-Qaeda has been dispersed and the 'axis of evil' exists no more. The indefinite character of the nuclear age requires a cool and steady consideration of all policy options, from missile defenses to new weapons systems to arms control, and for the long as well as the short term. This is exactly what is provided by this excellent collection of essays by some of the leading figures in the policy debates.

    Lawrence Freedman

    Professor of War Studies, King's College

  • This is an interesting and provocative collection of essays that address a once-forgotten, now all-too-relevant set of issues. This volume will be required reading for those with a serious interest in arms races, arms control, and missile defense.

    Steven Miller

    Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

  • The distinguishing feature of this volume is it's bringing together of an expert group, both American and foreign, to present a broad array of informed, critical analyses of some of the most pressing issues in international security today.

    Mitchell B. Reiss

    Dean of International Affairs, College of William and Mary

  • Contemporary Nuclear Debates updates the strategic framework within which decisions about the role of nuclear weapons should be made. These three questions—what missile defense system should the U.S. deploy? Do arms races matter anymore? Is arms control dead?—are the central ones that need to be addressed. Today's and tomorrow's strategic thinkers will be informed by this comprehensive set of answers, representing American and global views on all sides of these critical debates.

    John Hamre

    President, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense

  • For those tired of the old arguments—welcome to the new arguments. No matter what your position, Contemporary Nuclear Debates is a treasure trove of informed analysis and new thinking on some of today's most critical issues.

    Joseph Cirincione

    Director, Carnegie Endowment Non-Proliferation Project

  • One of the tremendous ironies of the post-Cold War world—and an important focus of this book—is that the United States and the Russian Federation may face a greater threat today than we did at the height of the Cold War.

    Senator Richard Lugar

  • Could missile defense and arms control advance the US and international security in the new century? Contemporary Nuclear Debates is a remarkable contribution to the current deliberation

    Dingli Shen

    Professor and Deputy Director, Center for American Studies, Fudan University, China

  • Contemporary Nuclear Debates succeeds admirably in presenting a wide range of views on traditional nuclear questions recast in the current international environment. Especially noteworthy is its treatment of the potential impact of a limited US national missile defense.

    Dean A. Wilkening

    Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University