A somewhat reassuring audit of the residual threat posed by nuclear weapons, from a military analyst whose previous predictions have proved chillingly prescient. With defense budgets in both the US and the erstwhile USSR in full retreat, van Creveld (History/Hebrew University, Jersusalem; The Transformation of War, 1991, etc.) focuses on the state of the atomic-arms art in a clutch of less-developed countries--China, India, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, etc. Among other matters, his informed survey considers the impact of strategic circumstances on national nuclear policies, and provides estimates of each country's atomic inventories. For various reasons, van Creveld concludes that the use of A-bombs or their tactical equivalents by Third World nations is effectively foreclosed. In the case of Pakistan, for instance, the author contends that the development of a nuclear arsenal has made its rulers ``simultaneously more confident of themselves and less adventurous.'' Which is not to say that van Creveld believes the West to be home free. Indeed, he reiterates previous warnings as to the faltering capacity of even modern industrial powers to monopolize violence, let alone combat or contain terrorism, grass-roots insurgencies, and allied belligerencies. For the time being, however, van Creveld doesn't see any danger of nuclear holocaust at the hands of the less- developed nations. A perceptive study that affords a measure of cold comfort on the score of deterrence.