Designer soldiers, truth serums, ethnically-targeted weapons, and synthetic life sound like something out of a summer science fiction blockbuster. Yet, Mark Wheelis contends in our cover story that this might be what the future has in store. The biological revolution that is bringing us a new understanding of human physiology and a wealth of wonder drugs has also given those who would do us harm a new blueprint for doing so. Wheelis calls for governments to develop new strategies before they get the chance.
Still, there are steps that the United States and its allies could be taking to rein in biological weapons programs, argue Kenneth Luongo, Derek Averre, Raphael Della Ratta, and Maurizio Martellini. Nowhere is this more true than in the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia, where the United States and its allies have worked for more than a dozen years to secure and eventually diminish the vast arsenal of former Soviet weapons. They have barely dented the problem because of inadequate funding and Russian resistance.
It is to meet such challenges that the Swedish government last year asked Hans Blix, the well-known weapons inspector, to lead an international commission that would develop recommendations on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In an interview in this issue, Blix calls for further disarmament steps by the nuclear powers. He also provides new insights on issues from the use of intelligence in international inspections to how to distinguish peaceful from military uses of nuclear power.
One place where it has been particularly hard to draw that distinction has been Iran, Paul Kerr reports in a series of news articles in this issue. And in an ACT scoop, Wade Boese reveals how the Bush administration is negotiating with three Eastern European countries to house a third base for its new—and unproven—missile defense system.
Today’s fledgling missile defense system, of course, was the brainchild of former President Ronald Reagan, who passed away last month. Reagan entered the presidency as an opponent of arms control and détente with the Soviet Union. But after a series of developments, including the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev as head of the Soviet Union, Reagan struck a landmark arms control agreement and set the stage for more.
This issue’s “Looking Back” section explores Reagan’s arms control record and legacy. Yet as Wheelis and Blix remind us, arms control is not merely of historic importance: it is crucial to ensuring that we have a future as well.