The fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks is a reminder of the dangers of a terrorist using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and the need to take all steps to prevent such an attack. But what if, despite our best efforts, such an attack took place? Would we be able to identify who did it and from where they obtained the fissile material or nuclear weapon itself?
In our cover story this month, William Dunlop and Harold Smith call for the United States to work with Russia on developing joint forensic teams to identify the perpetrators properly and inform the global response to such a catastrophe.
Biological weapons have usually been considered too technically complex for terrorists or lone hackers to develop or use. But Christopher F. Chyba writes that manipulations or synthesis of DNA will be increasingly available to the technically competent if they choose to make use of it. Chyba says that arms control efforts must catch up to these rapid technological changes.
The major forum for addressing these and other biological weapons challenges is the once-every-five-years Biological Weapons Convention review conference. In 2001 the event ended in acrimony. John Borrie writes that since then, a modest work program has helped to rebuild a measure of confidence in the BWC process. He says that, at this year’s review conference, states-parties may be able to move forward on improving practical implementation of BWC provisions but that these efforts may be too little, too late.
The job of curbing biological, chemical, and nuclear threats is one of the most important responsibilities of the president of the United States. In our book review this month, Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. critiques a new history that examines how each of the U.S. presidents since World War II managed and shaped U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policy.Our news section includes articles looking at the gaps in intelligence information behind the current debate on Iran’s nuclear program, the controversy over Israel’s use of cluster munitions, and the surprising tensions over the signing of a treaty creating a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.