Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism

By Jeanne Guillemin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10

BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS:
Restraints Against Proliferation

Biology today is as susceptible to hostile exploitation as were chemistry in World War I and physics in World War II. The formidable power of international commerce is behind this basic science, moving it toward innovations that, along with marketable medical value, might also be turned to destructive ends. If exploited by states, the science and technology of biological weapons could pose one of the most serious problems humanity has ever faced. A new generation of biological weapons, if pursued with vigor, could make them technologically competitive, especially for human control and domination. Unless the power of biotechnology is politically restrained, it could introduce scientific methods that would change the way war is waged and increase the means for victimizing civilians.

The question at present is whether sufficient national and international restraints against this danger are in place, especially when scientific knowledge itself is at issue. In the past, various, at times serendipitous, combinations of legal norms, public oversight, technical obstacles, and political leadership prevented the use of biological weapons. Overall, though, the world has been lucky, in that influential political actors took action at critical junctures and that the general historical trend of the last century has been toward transparency and open government.

History shows that the problem of biological weapons proliferation is too complex to be solved by any single restraint.' A reasoned assessment of threats and measures is the first step to resolving the problem of proliferation. This problem should be understood as potentially more serious now than in the past, in great measure because human malice coupled with human ingenuity

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