Biological Weapons: The Black Sheep of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Family
Ciammachilli, Franco B.
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In 1969, President Richard Nixon ended the U.S. biological weapons program proclaiming, “massive, unpredictable, and potentially uncontrollable consequences.” Additionally, he added, “our [the United States government] bacteriological programs in the future will be confined to research in biological defense, on techniques of immunization, and on measures on controlling and preventing the spread of disease.” President Nixon understood the dangerous potential weaponizing living organism could have on society and the dilemma in controlling their development. In the subsequent pages, I explore the complex relationship between disease, public health, warfare, bioterrorism and national security. By examining the system of biodefense strategies, the study will highlight the effectiveness of biodefense policies on countering bioterrorism, securing immunity and promoting greater security. The arguments in the research contribute to the greater debate about the designation of bioweapons and their potential threat. The weapons of mass destruction categories include chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. However, many agree that while these threats can cause widespread panic and harm to the public, only nuclear weapons can be classified with causing mass destruction. For that reason, the examination will focus on the apparent threat caused by biological weapons and the issues that complicate their designation as a weapon of mass destruction. More specifically the examination will progress over several research topics that challenge the effectiveness of current biodefense strategies; explores the potential threat of bioterrorism; and examines the dangers of defensive medical countermeasures and immunity on vulnerable populations. These topics will assist in providing a clear understanding of the threat biological weapons pose and contribute to the effort for developing strategies to counter their proliferation.