Terrorism, War, or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons

By Anne L. Clunan; Peter R. Lavoy et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
A Quantitative Overview of Biological Weapons
Identification, Characterization,
and Attribution

GARY ACKERMAN AND VICTOR ASAL

In addition to the close case-study approach utilized in much of this volume, the analysis of questions surrounding biological weapons (BW) events can be augmented by a view through the lens of quantitative social science methods. This approach allows for the identification of prospective trends and common features across geographically and temporally different events. This chapter explores how comparative quantitative analysis can reveal new insights related to identification of biological agents, characterization of intentionality of an outbreak, and attribution to specific perpetrators.

We recognize at the outset that the past is not a perfect guide to future behavior. Behavioral discontinuities, formally complex dynamics, and other nonlinear changes in perpetrators, technologies, and the global environment can cause radical departures from previous trends. For example, the availability of commercial microbiology “kits” has dramatically reduced the level of skill required to perform sophisticated microbiological techniques, including some of those required for the preparation of weapons-grade biological materials. As a result, where most past biological weapons events have been relatively limited in scope, future biological weapons attacks may have far greater impact on public health, the economy, and other foundations of society. Indeed, it is by extrapolating from naturally occurring disease epidemics and other forms of mass-casualty warfare and terrorism that defense planners have come to at

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