The Control of the Arms Race: Disarmament and Arms Control in the Missile Age

By Hedley Bull; Richard Goold-Adams | Go to book overview
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7
DISARMAMENT AND CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL AND RADIOLOGICAL WARFARE

1

A CONVENIENT starting-point is the definition given by the Report of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Research in CBR1: 'Chemical warfare is the intentional employment of toxic gases, liquids, or solids to produce casualties, and the use of screening smoke or incendiaries. Biological warfare is the military use of living organisms or their toxic products to cause death, disability, or damage to man, his domestic animals, or crops. Radiological warfare employs the harmful ionizing effects of radiation against man, whether directly or indirectly, with nuclear weapon fallout the principal although not the only means for generation and distribution of agents.'

There is a public image of these three kinds of warfare which links them together and distinguishes them from both nuclear and conventional warfare. This categorization is in some ways unhelpful. Some chemical weapons, especially incendiary weapons, which in the interwar years were regarded in rather the same light as poison gas, must clearly now be regarded as conventional weapons. There are in fact a wide range of CBR weapons and of possible uses for them: the moral, political and military questions which they raise are different in each case. It is misleading to regard them as forming, along with nuclear weapons, a category of 'weapons of mass destruction': chemical weapons are often, nowadays perhaps mainly, thought of in terms of tactical employment. Because they belong more to the laboratories than to the battlefields they are subject to the fear of the unknown and to uncontroverted speculation: the depiction of them as all alike peculiarly evil and terrifying is not unquestionable.

Though this public image is confused and owes its existence to a number of historical accidents, it is a persistent factor with which any policy must reckon.

____________________
1
United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1959. Much of the information in this chapter is taken from this report.

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