America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
Conclusions

Knowledge is power in gas defense. It saves casualties, increases the confidence of men in their own ability to protect themselves, and reduces fear.

-- Brigadier GeneralAlden Waitt, Gas Warfare, 1943

Chemical and biological warfare can be dangerous to your health. So can fighting with maces, bayonets, automatic rifles, tanks, cluster bombs, antipersonnel mines, cruise missiles, and five-inch naval guns. Weapons of war exist to give a military force the capability to exert its will against an adversary for a specific objective during a specific timeframe, ideally resulting in your side receiving the fewest casualties in the exchange. The United States invested in the design and development of CB weapons in an effort to gain an advantage over its adversaries, thus reducing the cost of personnel and equipment necessary to win. Even if one were to argue that these weapons were designed only as a retaliatory capability to respond and punish the offender in kind, the end result is that by discouraging the enemy against using CB weapons, the U.S. military gains an advantage in a conventional war (because its highly trained soldiers using state-of-the-art equipment aren't degraded). Chemical and biological agents are weaponized because they will incapacitate and/or kill the enemy, and they can be dropped with precision and with predictable consequences (at least as well as any smart munitions). That matches the requirements of any modern weapon system. CB weapons are not the "poor man's atomic bomb," they don't even come close with the long-term devastation caused by even a small tactical nuke. Bad press is more responsible for that label than any historical incident.

We have only to look at the historical examples. At Dugway Proving Ground, even if one overlooked the overwhelming lack of evidence, there was no threat to people and no human casualties. All that was seen was the whiff of dirty politics and the sound of howling reporters looking for blood. Even as the Army leadership settled out of court before the evidence was completely in, the popular opinion is that this was an admission of guilt. The faulty assumption that a small

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