Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and leading biological and chemical weapons expert, died recently at his home in Washington, D.C. He will be deeply missed. His departure leaves a tremendous vacuum in the field of biological and chemical weapons arms control.
For those who met or worked with him, Jonathan stood out as someone who was always willing to help. He was thoughtful and never rash, possessed of a quiet determination to find answers to the deeper questions and come up with practical answers to international security challenges.
Jonathan joined the ACA board in 2003 and provided thoughtful advice to the organization on many occasions. Readers of Arms Control Today will know him from his frequent contributions on biological and chemical weapons issues through the years. Most recently, he helped with our interview of Laura Kennedy, a senior U.S. official, on the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) review conference; his January/February article provides a cogent analysis of the challenges facing the BWC.
For ACA staff and fellow board members, as well as many others in the field, Jonathan was the first person to call for all things having to do with biosecurity, biological and chemical weapons, and more. He had that rare ability to understand complex issues as well as explain them lucidly to those who were not as knowledgeable as he was.
On one memorable occasion, Jonathan helped ACA explain the case for continuing inspections in Iraq rather than launching an invasion to halt Saddam Hussein’s suspected unconventional weapons programs. His analysis then, as on other occasions, was carefully formulated but clear and easily understood. At that Oct. 7, 2002, briefing, Jonathan astutely said, “[A] realistic goal of the UN inspection regime is not to eliminate every last weapon, which is probably impossible, but to deny Iraq a militarily significant mass-destruction capability. I believe that goal is probably achievable if [the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] is given full access to relevant facilities throughout Iraq, supplied with accurate and timely intelligence, and supported by a united Security Council.”
Jonathan was an expert’s expert. He held a biology degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in political science. His career included a number of U.S. government positions, including in the Department of State, the Office of Technology Assessment, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the preparatory commission for the Chemical Weapons Convention and served as a biological weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq in 1995.
Jonathan later worked at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace. In 2008 he served on the professional staff of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. In 2011 he joined the Federation of American Scientists to lead its Biosecurity Education Project.
Jonathan was a prolific writer, producing many highly regarded books, including Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (2001), Biosecurity: Limiting Terrorist Access to Deadly Pathogens (2003), and War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al-Qaeda (2006), and editing volumes such as Germany in Transition: A Unified Nation’s Search for Identity (1999), and Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (2000).
We will always remember Jonathan as an extremely dedicated, talented, and warm human being. We will miss his spirit and wise counsel.