Essays Biological Warfare

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In this part, he uses two cases, UNSCOM’s experience verifying Iraq’s biological weapons program from 1991 to 1998 (and its dismantling), and the Soviet Union’s highly secretive biological weapons program from the mid-1980s into the 1990s, to illustrate how difficult it is to oversee, gather intelligence about, and verify that the production of biological agents, whether in governmental or private entities, is limited to peaceful purposes and not weaponized.

The first section's general introduction to the language and characteristics of biological weapons is lucid and and useful, especially for non-experts.

The second characteristic, the limited deterrence capability of biological weapons, follows on the first – i.e., surprise and attack bias –and he goes on to explain the contrast, in his view, between the two weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons, with regards to deterrence.

While biological weapons are lethal, he says, they rely on secrecy and surprise, which makes them poor choices as deterrents.

A defensive biological weapons program, for example, can easily become an offensive biological weapons program.

The precursor chemicals and biological compounds used for biological weapons have essential civilian uses.Second, there are no guaranteed defense mechanisms for nuclear attacks, unlike for biological ones.Third, biological weapons are not strategic deterrents in the way nuclear weapons are, because states shroud their biological weapons programs in secrecy, making it difficult to make credible threats, and because the unpredictability of the effects of biological weapons makes deterrence less stable.But the unpredictable, even if low, infection or harm rates, striking here or there, leaving some alone, infecting others, killing some in horrible ways, but sparing others – that's a recipe for a terror weapon directed against the population.Terrorism depends in part upon leveraging fear and uncertainty, and the unpredictability of biological weapons provides an important element for terrorizing a population.He argues that it is “easier and more cost-efficient to develop biological weapons than it is to develop defenses against them,” on account of what Koblentz calls the “diversity of threat agents,” and the ease of surprise attack.Indeed, he goes on, biological weapons necessarily rely on surprise to achieve their devastating effects, because once the biological threat agent and the location where the threat agent will have its effects, in at least some cases the defender can seek to establish defenses, such as medical treatments or cures, vaccines to limit susceptibility, and area quarantines or similar measures to prevent the threat agent’s spread.Published by Cornell UP (Paperback 2011) Reviewed by Matthew Sprinkel Biological weapons are often referred to as “the poor man’s atomic bomb.” We all know what that means – a weapon of mass destruction because of its potentially uncontrollable effects but, unlike nuclear weapons, relatively cheap to create and deploy, at least by reference to the cost and technical sophistication required to build and deliver a nuclear weapon.Lots more countries, much poorer countries, can do biological (or chemical) weapons even if they probably couldn’t do nukes.Koblentz uses these three differences to highlight some of the basic strategic traits of biological weapons.The first characteristic Koblentz describes is biological warfare’s bias in favor of attackers.


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