Foreign Policy Magazine is Going Nuclear

We're living in the end times, people...

FP Cover

We’re living in the end times, people… Foreign Policy’s latest issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday, March 24, is “front to back nuclear.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the apocalyptic scene depicted on the magazine’s cover certainly fits that adage. With stories that explore the policies, innovations, and threats of the nuclear era, the message of the issue is that “when it comes to nukes, what we don’t know still can definitely hurt us.”

Some of the features of the issue will include:

  • John Mecklin on how the world’s nuclear powers are embarking on costly weapons upgrades, challenging the treaties designed to make the world safer.
  • Sarah Laskow explores the unresolved science and politics of low-dose radiation exposure
  • Scott Johnson reports from a small town, Apollo, PA., where in the 1960s spies may have stolen uranium to fuel Israel’s nuclear program.

FishbowlDC had a chance to chat with FP‘s print magazine’s editor, Mindy Kay Bricker, about the new nuclear issue. Mindy was editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, so this is an all too familiar subject for her. She will also be doing a Reddit AMA at 2pm the same day as the magazine release, so be sure to get your questions ready! Below is our Q&A with Mindy, in which we discuss everything from the nuclear theme of the issue to a fascinating article on the experience of being transgender in India:

FishbowlDC: What was the reasoning behind choosing the nuclear theme? 

Mindy Kay Bricker: The timing seemed right. For one, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is happening this spring, which will bring in 190 states party to the NPT to assess, among other things, how the agreement should be strengthened.

But this year is also the 70th anniversary of the Trinity nuclear test and, of course, the anniversary of the only time nuclear weapons have been used in war—when the United States dropped Little Boy over Hiroshima and Fat Man over Nagasaki. Thus, it seemed like a good time to ask the question: Seventy years later, how do we accept the nuclear world in which we live?

FBDC: What is the significance of the phrase “ignorance is bliss” and the Orwellian landscape on the cover? 

MKB: The cover is a visualization of this acceptance, Orweillian as it might seem.

 In the horizon is the world’s nuclear waste; worth noting is that, globally, there are over 400 nuclear plants operating in some 30 countries—and even more wanting nuclear power—yet there is not one repository for high-level nuclear waste. Not just in the United States, I should note, but anywhere in the world. Yet the world keeps plugging along.

Nuclear power is here, and likely here to stay for decades more to come, so why not find a solution for the backend of the fuel cycle? Obviously, there are many answers to this, but one simple one is that, for now, it’s easy to put off, what some see as, a problem that is years away from being truly serious. While that’s just a small visual element of what’s on the cover, there’s a similar thread that runs through all the nuclear stories in this issue.  

FBDC: The issue focuses on nuclear proliferation and the dangers it poses on global security, but you chose to open with a story about an Indian transgender person and the experience of being “hijra” in her country. Any particular reason for this decision?

MKBThe principal feature stories, keyed to the cover, pertain to the nuclear world in some shape or form; however, the rest of the magazine is, as with every issue of FP, devoted to sharing with our readers the happenings around the globe.

Kicking off the issue, as you noted, is a photo essay that we commissioned French photographer Yannick Cormier to shoot on the hijra community in India. Or, more specifically, on a woman named Malaika.

Cormier’s access into Malaika’s life offers such a truly beautiful moment into her world. Even though the reader only sees a glimpse—we’re only with her for a few days—we get to know her; there’s depth. We see her in the greater community. To me, one of the most powerful photos in the essay is the one in which she stands between two wagging fingers as Malaika mediates a family fight between a daughter who is accusing her own father of molesting her. You can almost hear the photograph. It’s intense. It’s sincere. It’s life. But it’s also striking because of the respect that Malaika commands.

FBDC: Suki Kim’s interview with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was fascinating and certainly a highlight of this issue, as the two offer a familiarity with North Korea that few can claim. Are there any specific aspects of this issue that you are personally most excited about?

MKB: I’m glad to hear you liked “The Exchange,” which is a new feature we recently brought to the magazine with our redesign that debuted in January of this year. I agree that their conversation was fascinating; you have two people who have gone to North Korea, but their experiences—one as a policymaker, the other as a school teacher of North Korea’s elite—have been drastically different. And then they still land on this question of what, really, is North Korea?