The possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack has been called a black swan occurrence, an unlikely but possible event that is the national security nightmare that keeps President Obama— and other world leaders—up at night. At a closed-door session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague last month, the assembled leaders were challenged to respond to terrorist nuclear attack scenarios. The goal was to focus them on the serious security and financial consequences that would affect all nations if poorly secured nuclear materials fell into the wrong hands.
They defeated the virtual dangers through collective action. After three summits and six years, however, it is clear that real-world international cooperation and consensus on nuclear security remains weak. And focusing on the threat alone has proven insufficient motivation for significantly improving global defenses against nuclear terrorism.