In the twentieth century states were boasting about their nuclear power since nuclear weapons were the most sophisticated type of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, at present nuclear weapons are regarded as a primitive type of WMD and biological weapons come into play. Many countries are getting concerned about this potential threat. Admittedly, in a globalized environment proliferations of biological weapons can cause millions of deaths.
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The reason why biological weapons should be regarded as a more dangerous threat than, for example, nuclear weapons is that the former “combine maximum destructiveness and easy availability” (Betts 1998, 4).
Apart from this biological weapons are characterized by “low visibility, high potency” and “relatively easy delivery” (Danzig & Berkowsky 1997, 431). Reputedly, creation (and/or transportation if necessary) of nuclear weapons requires significant financing, whereas biological weapons are quite easy to obtain.
The agents of the biological weapons are bacteria, toxins and viruses which “occur naturally in the environment” and, what is more, “many are used for wholly legitimate medical purposes (such as the development of antibiotics and vaccines)” (Danzig & Berkowsky 1997, 431).
It is necessary to point out that there is no need in transporting biological weapons since aerosolization is the major method of this kind of weapons proliferation. Basically, anyone “with modest finances and basic training in biology and engineering” can create one of the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction (Danzig & Berkowsky 1997, 431).
It is also important to note that insignificant amount of any type of biological weapons will suffice to cause thousand or even millions of deaths. For instance, only a “millionth of a gram of anthrax constitutes a lethal inhalation dose”, it is not difficult to imagine how many people can day if a kilo of the substance will be aerosolized (Danzig & Berkowsky 1997, 431).
Anthrax is not the only potential threat. Among agents and diseases which can be used as a biological weapon are Burkholderia bacteria, plague, smallpox, typhus, volatile nerve agents (Building a Stronger Defense 2007, 2).
Some argue that there is no need to be preoccupied with biological weapons since they were not used and are not likely to be used in future. However, it is possible to find many records about the use of biological weapons since the Middle Ages.
For instance, soldiers catapulted cadavers “over the walls of European cities and castles under siege” or “the British supplied Indians with smallpox-infected blankets” during the French and Indian Wars (Danzig & Berkowsky 1997, 431-432). The twentieth century also had several cases of the use of biological weapons (there were numerous tests on prisoners during the World War II).
Apparently, such stories can become a real threat at present since non-state violent actors (NSVAs) (or even state violent actors) can use biological weapons. In the modern globalized world terroristic groups and other NSVAs can easily access any type of biological weapons and aerosolize it in some territory.
In fact, there is already such term as “bioterrorism” which refers to “a deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, fungi or toxins from living organisms to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants” (Building a Stronger Defense 2007, 1).
Admittedly, the major aim of terroristic groups is to cause panic among civilians, and with the help of biological weapons they can easily achieve their major. Millions of people can be infected and the rest of population of the country where a biological weapon was proliferated (or even several countries) can become terrified to act against the terroristic group.
When considering potential threats of biological weapons proliferation, it is necessary to take into account the spread of such pandemic diseases as the Spanish flu or bird flu which rapidly spread all over the planet. Thus, the problem of biological weapons proliferation is a concern of every country in the world since this type of WMD can potentially cause millions of deaths.
Betts, Richard K. 1998. “The New Threat of Mass Destruction.” Foreign Affairs, January/February. Web.
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Danzig, Richard and Pamela B. Berkowsky. “Why Should We Be Concerned about Biological Warfare?” Journal of American Medical Association 278, no. 5 (1997): 431-432.
“Building a Stronger Defense against Bioterrorism.” FDA Consumer Health Infromation. Web.