A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon that can kill large numbers of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures, natural structures, or the biosphere in general. The term is often used to cover several weapon types, including nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons. Additional terms used in a military context include atomic, biological, and chemical warfare and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear warfare.
The phrase was predominantly used in reference to nuclear weapons during the Cold War; following the collapse of the Soviet Union and increasing tensions between the Middle East and the Western powers, the term broadened to its modern, more inclusive definition. It entered widespread usage in relation to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction assembles research studies that analyze the weapons, efforts to control, and proliferation. Theses studies, reports, and analyses were conducted by governmental agencies, and private organizations under contract with the Federal government. They represent the most rigorous and authoritative research on global efforts to halt proliferation and reduce the threat.
The documents in this collection are diverse in scope and emphasis. They dissect specific weapons, explore efforts to control proliferation, illuminate the psychology of WMD terrorism, trace the origins and development of international efforts to reduce WMDs, and address the formidable problem of developing feasible counter-measures and polices.
The value of these materials is both immediate and historical. They provide up-to-date information on the global risk and efforts to control WMDs, while documenting their perception and threat over more than three decades. These seminal studies are important now and will remain of value in the future.