War, Morality, and the Military Profession

By Malham M. Wakin | Go to book overview
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27 On the Morality of Chemical/Biological War

Richard J. Krickus

Richard J. Krickus of the Washington Arms Control Project Office, Bendix Corporation, contends that clarification is needed concerning the morality, use, and military implications of chemical/biological (CB) weapons. His study provides a framework for such an analysis. The claim by just war theorists to offer an alternative to "all-out war" or "all-out submission" is the point of departure for considering the morality of CB weapons. After exposing the misconception that CB weapons are illegal according to international law, he notes that many people who are absolutely opposed to CB warfare fail to make a crucial distinction between chemical and biological weapons. Because the former are controllable and usable in a tactical environment, they can be justified from the point of view of just war doctrine whereas the latter cannot. In conjunction with the military versatility of nonlethal weapons, this offers the possibility of making certain types of limited war more humane. But before this or any other possibility can be explored in the required depth, it is necessary to overcome the "CB taboo." Krickus' article is important because it takes a clear step in this direction.

—W. S.

The moral ambiguity and legal uncertainty concerning the use of chemical/biological (CB) weapons has thus far inhibited rigorous and dispassionate analysis of the military implications of CB operations. At the same time, because of this "CB taboo," the arms control and

Reprinted from Journal of Conflict Resolution 9, no. 2 ( June 1965):200-210 by permission of the publisher, Sage Publications, Inc. © Sage Publications.


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