Is Bush Finally Getting Serious About Loose Nukes?

Like Michael Crowley, I’ve been continually stunned by the fact that officials in the Bush administration appear to care very little about all the loose nuclear material floating around the world.

I’m generally of the opinion that the possibility of another low-level terrorist attack in the United States on the scale of, say, the London bus bombings, while tragic, shouldn’t be among the country’s highest concerns. We’re never going to be able to prevent every minor attack, a few bombs aren’t going to bring down the republic, and anyway, there really are more pressing problems out there (global warming, say). But there’s one big exception here—a nuclear attack wiping out an American city would be unimaginably catastrophic, and the government really should do everything in its power to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. But the administration’s progress on this front has been absolutely dismal, despite the fact that this stuff isn’t terribly difficult to accomplish.

So it’s very good news that President Bush and Vladimir Putin are now “announc[ing] a new global program to track potential nuclear terrorists, detect and lock up bomb-making materials and coordinate their responses if terrorists obtain a weapon.” Obviously I’d like to know the details here, and whether they’ve taken all the steps advocated by, say, the Nuclear Threat Initiative—and whether words will translate into action, etc.—but this looks like progress. I’d ask why it took the administration five years to get around to this, but maybe we can leave aside carping for now.