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Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of Britain


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Biological Weapons: Threat of the 21st Century
Michele Tallman
Ashford University
Principle & Theory of Security Issues
Alicia Dembowski
January 12, 2014

Biological Weapons: Threat of the 21st Century

Biological Warfare is morally and inhumanely wrong, it is the wrongful killing of men, women, and children and it should be stopped no matter what the circumstances are. For the past 50 years or so the world has lived under the shadow of atomic weapons, threatening a “nuclear nightmare” that would bomb us back to the Stone Age. Now in the 21st Century, there is a new nightmare, called Biological Weapons. These types of weapons deliver toxins and microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria, so as to deliberately infect disease among people, animals, as well as the destruction of crops leading to food shortages. The way that a biological weapon is used depends on several factors, these include the agent, its preparation; its durability in the environment, and route of infection. Some agents can be disbursed as an aerosol, which can be inhaled or can infect a susceptible spot on the skin, like a cut or wound.
With the recent revolution in molecular biology, this may have incidentally unleashed a new threat to a peaceful night’s sleep. Even though there has been talk concerning the disarming of certain countries from nuclear weapons, terrorist factions and "nations of concern" have sought ways to continue their wars, by using biological weapons. Asymmetric warfare concentrates on the use of unconventional and affordable weapons and tactics, ranging from traditional guerrilla fighting to the deployment of new weapons of mass destruction. The supremacy in conventional weaponry established by the U.S. and demonstrated to lethal effect during the 1991 Gulf War which has made asymmetric warfare all the more attractive. Figuring prominently in the arsenal of asymmetric warfare are both biological and chemical weapons. Although it may be something of a misnomer to label most current forms of these agents as "weapons of mass destruction," their power is nevertheless considerable. While the Chemical Weapons Convention is an important step toward a safer world, it may have the undesired effect of encouraging some countries to redouble their efforts to acquire biological weapons- disease-causing microbes and natural poisons such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, and botulinum toxin. Biological weapons are not only more potent than chemical weapons but they are easier to produce in small, clandestine facilities. Because biological weapons are so potent yet much cheaper and easier to produce than nuclear weapons, they have been called the poor man's atomic bomb.
Before the terrorist assaults of September 11 and the anthrax letter attacks that followed, US officials often drew a distinction between the threat posed by national chemical and biological weapons programs and the threat posed by terrorists using chemical and biological weapons. In the intervening months it has become clear that the two proliferation problems are closely linked, in that assistance from national programs is likely to be critical to terrorist efforts to acquire and use chemical or biological weapons successfully, particularly on a large scale. This underscores the urgency of pursuing certain measures that delegitimize such weapon and complicate the efforts of both nations and terrorist organizations to acquire them. After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had called attention to the importance of stopping the access to biological and chemical weapons, warning that countries that seek weapons of mass destruction and support international terrorism will not be tolerated.
The White House published in 2009 a National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats with an underlying theme that biological weapons eventually will be used in a terrorist attack. To prevent deadly viruses from being turned into mass-casualty weapons, officials stated that one of the most difficult challenges is obtaining timely and accurate insight on potential attacks. Worse still, it is now increasing, and these weapons are emerging as a serious threat to peace in the 21st century (
According to researchers, biological warfare is not new; in ancient Rome they had put carrion into wells to poison their adversaries' drinking water. In the 14th century the Tatars catapulted the bodies of bubonic-plague victims over the city walls of Kaffa, the Black Sea port that served as a gateway to the Silk Road trade route. With that the citizens of Kaffa had contracted the plague, but that had backfired and the plague spread to other countries. Over the next three years, the bubonic plague or more commonly known as the Black Death raged northward, wiping out nearly a third of Western Europe. It was not until the 19th century that scientist had an understanding of infectious diseases; one of the first illnesses to be explained by the new germ theory was anthrax, an infectious disease common to sheep and cattle. Louie Pasteur developed the first animal vaccine against anthrax, which, together with others came up with not only the vaccine but also ideas about antiseptic precautions which in turn helped stop the outbreaks of the disease.
A biological attack could create an almost unimaginable catastrophe. According to an estimate by the U.S. Congress's former Office of Technology Assessment, 100 kilograms of anthrax, released from a low-flying aircraft over a large city on a clear, calm night, could kill 1-3 million people. This figure is comparable to the casualties from a one-megaton hydrogen bomb. When disseminated as an aerosol, anthrax spores are inhaled deep into the victim's lungs and travel to the lymph nodes, where they germinate and multiply. The bacteria then secrete potent toxins, giving rise in about three days to a devastating illness. For the victims to have any chance at all of surviving, antibiotics must be administered intravenously before the onset of acute symptoms. Anthrax is only weakly communicable in humans and rarely causes disease, unless the bacterium comes into contact with the bloodstream through a wound or is ingested in contaminated meat; however the inhalation anthrax is a very deadly disease in humans. Unless treated with large doses of a penicillin-type antibiotic within the first day or so of exposure it has a mortality rate in excess of 80 percent. Some filo viruses, such as Ebola, which cause hemorrhagic fevers has the same rate of mortality.
Biological weapons may be employed in various ways to gain a strategic or tactical advantage over an adversary, either by threats or by actual deployments. Like some of the chemical weapons, biological weapons may also be useful as area denial weapons. These agents may be lethal or non-lethal, and may be targeted against a single individual, a group of people, or even an entire population. They may be developed, acquired, stockpiled or deployed by nation states or by non-national groups, in the latter case, or if a nation-state uses it clandestinely, it may also be considered bioterrorism. With all of the different types of biological weapons out there, anthrax became the agent of choice for most biological warfare programs, consider the properties of anthrax, it is convenient. To the terrorist who have the knowledge, large quantities of spores can be readily prepared from liquid cultures. Once the spores are stabilized, hardy spores have a long shelf life and are well suited to weaponization in a device that can deliver a widespread aerosol and it is self-terminating. These airborne spores remain infectious until they fall to the ground, where most become inactivated by sunlight; it is effective but since there is a vaccine available, anthrax doesn't quite satisfy as the perfect bioweapon. Finally, for conventional anthrax, antibiotic treatment can be effective if administered quickly, so of all the natural bio warfare agents, anthrax traditionally ranks near the top of everyone's short list.
By any measure, the economic outlay required to develop offensive bioweapons capabilities is significantly less than that of a nuclear program, less is needed in the way of equipment and infrastructure. The materials themselves are less rare, and less is required in the way of specialized knowledge for the biological aspects, since much of the information can be found on the internet. All these aspects give a great worry to large countries such as the US and England, but also smaller countries, that is why it is important that they pull all resources together to stop this madness from happening. In fact, it seems far more likely that biological agents will be used by terrorists than by warring nations. Although the terrorist use of bioweapons is likely to occur on a reduced scale, it could have worldwide ramifications under unfavorable circumstances. It is suspected that more than a dozen sovereign nations possess some form of offensive bioweapons program, assuming one includes some republics of the former Soviet Union. The idea of fighting this option of war would be to include verification measures that monitor treaty compliance, including reciprocal inspection visits to suspected bioweapons facilities. This is an essential component of modern arms-control regimes, similar to those implemented for nuclear weapons treaties. What has people worried is the impact of modern biotechnology, and for better or worse, the world is in the middle of a revolution in the life sciences. Scientists have already determined the complete genomic sequences for more than 30 microbes and even more viruses. The threat of biological warfare is not just an academic concern. In October 2012, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) monitoring the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction concluded that Iraq was still trying to conceal the full scale and scope of its biological weapons program. Iraq acknowledged in 1995 that prior to the Gulf War, it had produced large quantities of anthrax spores, botulinum toxin, and a fungal poison called aflatoxin, filled them into at least 166 aerial bombs and Scud missile warheads, and stockpiled them ready for use. Although Iraq claimed to have destroyed its biological arsenal after the war, U.N. inspectors suspect that Iraq may still be hiding a cache of anthrax spores and germ filled warheads.
Those who claim that biowarfare agents can be brewed in a garage by practically anyone with a modicum of training may be guilty of overstating the case, but although there has been no shortage of exaggeration, that doesn't mean we're off the hook. Any group that has the capabilities of developing offensive bioweapons must overcome two significant problems. One biological and the other physical, first, they must be able to produce stable quantities of a suitably potent agent and second, they must have an effective means of delivering the agent to the intended target. However, who is to say that any terrorist group could not overcome these two problems, after all, a terrorist works under entirely different constraints. For one thing, there's no requirement for the dispersal to be very efficient, because bioweapons terror attacks are highly leveraged. If anthrax were released haphazardly in a major U.S. city and produced only a handful of cases, the public fear and disruption that would ensue might alone bring about the intended effect. Our public health system simply isn't geared up to handle an outbreak of this kind, which would, for a time, flood emergency rooms. A terrorist group might also be tempted to figure out the dispersal problem and release some other contagious disease, with the aim of starting an epidemic or even a worldwide pandemic. Or it might choose to act quietly and instead attack an economic target, such as crops or livestock, rather than a human population.
Iraq is only the best-known example of several countries-among them China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Taiwan-known or suspected to be pursuing a biological warfare capability. The U.S. government also believes that rogue elements within the Russian military may be continuing Soviet programs to develop biological weapons, despite President Boris Yeltsin's 1992 order that such activities cease.
Terrorist threats are very real and it's about to get worse, as with nuclear war, successful bioweapons attacks are characteristically "low probability, high consequence" events. The expectation value of the risk is the product of a very small and a very large number, and such numbers carry great uncertainty. As the world's remaining superpower, the United States bears a unique responsibility to take the moral high ground in this process, assuming a leadership role in support of meaningful weapons treaties that establish international norms. A way must be found before a singular opportunity is lost.
In 2003, President Bush had announced that Bio Watch would “protect our people and our homeland”; this announcement was done two years after the attack on September 11, 2001. Within those two years, many threats, envelopes containing anthrax were sent to different government agencies proving that even as security was upgraded the US is still vulnerable to biological attacks. In more than 30 U.S. cities, Bio Watch units on rooftops and other outdoor locations suck air through dry filters, which are removed every 24 hours and tested at public health laboratories. Bio Watch samplers have also been deployed at major spectator events, including the Super Bowl and national political conventions. The past four years have been markedly different with regard to efforts to address the risks from biological weapons. Although it occasionally has repeated the rhetoric acknowledging the severity of the threat, the Obama administration has not shown the same willingness to counter it aggressively.
As the science and technical components behind biological weapons become ever more accessible to states, groups, and even individuals, it is crucial to have a strategy that keeps pace with the evolving risk. Experts, including current and former Obama administration officials, have sounded alarms that biological weapons pose a serious threat to the country, perhaps even greater than the one from nuclear weapons. Clearly, more could and should be done to improve cooperation and consultation on biological threats across industry, academia, and government. The new administration should therefore ensure that the president's science adviser is someone from the life sciences community, to act as a bridge between private knowledge and public interest.A decade ago, then Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, oversaw the start of Bio Watch, the nationwide system designed to detect airborne releases of anthrax or other biological weapons.
The goal of biodefense is to integrate the sustained efforts of the national and homeland security, medical, public health, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement communities. Health care providers and public health officers are among the first lines of defense. In some countries private, local, and provincial (state) capabilities are being augmented by and coordinated with federal assets, to provide layered defenses against biological weapons attacks. During the first Gulf War the United Nations activated a biological and chemical response team, Task Force Scorpio, to respond to any potential use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians. The traditional approach toward protecting agriculture, food, and water: focusing on the natural or unintentional introduction of a disease is being strengthened by focused efforts to address current and anticipated future biological weapons threats that may be deliberate, multiple, and repetitive. The growing threat of bio warfare agents and bioterrorism has led to the development of specific field tools that perform on-the-spot analysis and identification of encountered suspect materials.
These critical differences between nuclear and biological weapons underscore the importance of having trained, knowledgeable biodefense experts as part of any comprehensive policy effort. Yet, nuclear weapons specialists, policymakers, and strategists far outnumber those working on biological weapons, even at crucial senior levels. It is clear that a biological weapon is wrong, and when Saddam Hussein threatened to turn the Persian Gulf War into “the mother of all wars” the world shook with the possible implications. The United States managed to divert the course of the war such as this did not happen. In other situation these results have not been as successful, unfortunately, and many people have suffered and died, who knows what the future holds, but biological weapons should not be a part of it.

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Block, S. (2013). The Growing Threat of Biological Weapons. American Scientist. Retrieved from
Fischer, R., Halibozek, E., & Green, G. (2008). Introduction to Security (8th Edition ed.). Burlington MA: B.
Hjalmarsson, K., Isla, N., Kraatz-Wadsack, G., & Barbeschi, M. (2010, July). Global Watch: The State of Biological Investigations. Bullentin of Atomic Scientist, Ashford University Library, EBSCO, Vol 66(Issue 4), Pages 70-76.
Sims, N. A. (2011, May). A Simple Treaty, A Complex fulfillment: A Short History of the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conferences. Bullentin of the Atomic Scientists, Ashford University Library, Vol 67(Issue 3), Pages 8-15.
Tucker, J. (1998). Putting Teeth in the Biological Weapon Ban. Technology Review, Inc. Retrieved from
Wall, W. (2011, March). Biological Weapons. Biologist Magazine, Vol. 58(Issue 1), pg. 17-20. Retrieved from
Willman, D. (2013, June 16). Bio Watch faces Congressional Hearing this Week. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

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