Armed Hostilities

“Homeland Security” of Rod Propst

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Article critique
  3. Conclusion
  4. References


The article to be analyzed is “How to Protect Ourselves From a Terrorist-Induced Nuclear Incident at a Commercial Site in the United States” by Rod Propst. It was published in May 2009 by the HIS homeland security journal. The latter author has tremendous experience in the field of defense and has taken part in several antiterrorism government initiatives in the country.

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Article critique

Although the author has not clearly written down a research question, one can deduce that it is as follows: “how vulnerable is the US to nuclear incidences in commercial sites and what can be done to minimize this vulnerability?” The author believes that there are new and creative ways for staging attacks by terrorists and that the country needs to assess its ability to handle an attack in a nuclear facility.

There is a thesis or central argument in this article. The author affirms that the possibility of nuclear-induced attacks at production facilities is real and that the country must protect itself against such an occurrence. Throughout the paper, he cites several incidences that can put the country at risk. (Propst, 2009)

The author accurately answers the “so what” question because he illustrates gaping holes in the country’s security approach thus showing that there is indeed a need to do something about such a situation. The author further reveals some insightful ways of how a terrorist can use these loopholes to achieve their missions.

This study is definitely unique because the author has managed to clearly compare the issues that the country knows about nuclear-based terrorism with what it does not. Here, he asserts that quantitative approaches to terrorism are the common strategy employed yet this would require very experienced personnel who can gain access into terrorist locations and hence deter an occurrence. On the other hand, the author discusses what the country knows and he states that most of the prominent terrorist organizations are well known and their preferred strategies as well.

In terms of the main points, the author first starts by challenging the status quo on antiterrorism efforts. He asserts that trying to figure out future attacks on the basis of numbers will not yield any results. He however points out that all is not lost since the country is already aware of what terrorists are capable of and that this can be a starting point. This author believes that attacks such as those that took part on September eleventh, 2001 are likely to occur again. This is because terrorists do not necessarily need a lot of resources to carry out an attack. All that is necessary is some expert knowledge in fission reactions as obtained from experts, some form of material that can undergo fission, and a weapon to dispense the material. He believes that all they are after is the creation of a hit that will attract the attention of the world or a symbol that can create terror. (Propst, 2009)

He further goes ahead and gives an example of how terrorists can improvise using commercial material. Here, he gives a background introduction into nuclear fissions and how they require some means of containment and then shows how terrorists can work out a way of containing that material. it is likely that terrorists can embrace such an approach owing to a number of advantages that range from no need for employment of a warhead, no need to break tamper proofs on those warheads to there is no need to have storage facilities or waste time in the event that there may be a need to vacate or leave a certain location containing it. All these advantages are likely to attract terrorists into nuclear attacks thus making such occurrences quite likely. Finally, the author gives a detailed recommendation of what needs to be done in order to counter such an alarming threat. In the process of carrying this out, the state needs to realize that the nature of terrorist attacks is such that it is highly unpredictable so efforts should be directed towards dealing with this kind of unpredictability. Alongside that, there should be employment and use of all sources available to the state. This should be followed by a revision of the possibility and threat of expansion. Also, protective perimeters need to be expanded and this should be backed up by the assessment of vulnerability levels of a certain site. Lastly, there ought to be an examination of what has been going on in other groups such that the country can learn from what others out there are trying to achieve. (Propst, 2009)

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In terms of the literature review, the author does not provide references for his work owing to the fact that there are no in-text citations provided in the entire article. Besides that, there is no reference list at the end of this piece of work. At the beginning of the article, the author begins by asserting that all the information in the article is from open sources. In fact, this is one of the major limitations of this article as readers would be interested in finding out exactly who are these ‘open sources’ and why does the author fails to acknowledge them. Nonetheless, because most of the material used to back up the author’s work is founded on the sciences then this implies that he is not expressing opinions and is simply putting out well-known facts within his field. Nevertheless, some of the hypotheses that the author puts out seriously need some backup. For instance, when the latter individual claims that “While we must recognize that the high-end, most likely availability is of chemical weapons or agents, then biologicals, then nuclear, it is possible (albeit unlikely—but the likelihood is a poor, inappropriate measure of defense) that a nuclear improvised explosive device is in our future.” (Propst, 2009, par 8) this was not a fact that has been accepted by all stakeholders in the Defense and antiterrorism field and this, therefore, necessitates some form of reference for such an assertion.

In terms of explaining his method of collecting data, the author claims that he has been obtaining most of his references from readily available material in the public domain. For instance, when he describes how terrorists can utilize commercial nuclear material, he does not state where he obtained this information. Nonetheless, readers can deduce that this is probably a reaction common among various scientists and engineers. Also, some of the examples of common nuclear explosions created in a relatively simple manner have been documented in magazines and newspapers as they are regarded as news items. It would have been helpful to readers if he had looked for these magazines. In other words, the author is assuming that everyone who reads his material has a background in defense or foreign affairs.

Although the author does not explicitly name his variables, it is possible to deduce what this can be after a thorough analysis of the article. It can be argued that the independent variable in this article is weak terrorist preparations and the dependent variable is the occurrence of a nuclear attack on a commercial site. He uses a series of diagrammatic and statistical figures to forge links between these two parameters.

One can argue that the author has offered a number of points of view on the issue of terrorist attacks within the US in a commercial site. He has considered the fact that an attack is plausible but has also postulated that all is not lost for this country since it has already established some sort of framework for deterring such actions.

As stated earlier, the author claims that a nuclear based terrorist attack on a commercial building is possible. His findings in the rest of the article mostly support this point of view because he gives instances in which circumstances can support such an occurrence. For example, he shows how easy it is easy to assemble nuclear material through those ones that are available in production plants. Emphasis is mostly given to the worst case scenario.

This writer’s conclusion emanate from his findings owing to the fact that that he mentions how unpredictable terrorist threats are with regard to nuclear incidences. On the other hand, he also mentions some of his recommendations and affirms that if the country follows these steps, then chances are that it will be better protected against such an attack. (Propst, 2009)

The author effectively addresses the implications of his findings. In fact a substantial focus of the paper reveals some of the situations and problems that can arise if nothing is done concerning impending terrorism threats. He claims that a range of physical, economic and psychological casualties can be tremendously diminished if recommendations made by him are implemented.

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One of the major strengths within this piece of work is that the author speaks with a tone of authority on the subject matter. Also, he does not merely dwell on all the dangers and problems that can arise out of such a situation since a reasonable portion of his work is a recommendation of ways in which risk can be prevented. However, the major weakness lies in the fact that no citation has been given for his findings.


Propst, R. (2009). How to Protect Ourselves From a Terrorist-Induced Nuclear Incident at a Commercial Site in the United States. HIS homeland security journal. Web. 

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