What if Enron had the bomb?
Back in the early 1950s, two countries had nuclear capability. While other countries obtained nuclear capability over the next few decades, they were all pretty much aligned with those two countries.
Then the Cold War ended.
Now the situation is a little more messy. As Jim Ulvog notes, there are now nine nuclear countries, and there is the possibility of more countries joining the nuclear club. When you have nine countries in the nuclear club, and the nine countries potentially represent as many as nine different points of view, nuclear control is less likely to be implemented.
But why stop at countries? There is always the possibility of any entity – not just a government – obtaining a dirty bomb. And although dirty bombs are less complex and less powerful than nuclear bombs, they can certainly do some sort of damage.
Depending on the sophistication of the bomb, wind conditions, and the speed with which the area of the attack was evacuated, the number of deaths and injuries from a dirty bomb explosion might not be substantially greater than from a conventional bomb explosion. But panic over radioactivity and evacuation measures could snarl a city. Moreover, the area struck would be off-limits for at least several months—possibly years—during cleanup efforts, which could paralyze a local economy and reinforce public fears about being near a radioactive area.
Let’s play a little “what if” game here. First, what if entities other than nations were able to master the more complex technology of nuclear weapons? Yes, this would require significant funding and significant expertise, but it’s certainly possible for a non government entity – such as al Qaeda – to get the money and the experts. And if you believe the U.S. political conservatives, private enterprise is more efficient than government anyway, so dedicated organizations should presumably be able to come up with a nuke more quickly.
This brings us into a situation where dozens upon dozens – or perhaps hundreds – of entities could have the bomb. Imagine all sorts of evil terrorist organizations having nuclear weapons.
But why stop there?
What if a future-day7 Montgomery Ward or Enron, trying to stave off bankruptcy, obtained a nuclear weapon and threatened its creditors with it?
Yes, it’s a ridiculous thought, and even the most pessimistic people may think that the probability of a U.S. business obtaining a nuclear weapon is small.
But then again, who imagined that a terrorist organization would hijack four planes at the same time and send (or try to send) them on suicidal missions?