Controlling Chemical and Biological Weapons

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Controlling Chemical and Biological Weapons

History and Introduction

Chemical and biological weapons (CBWs) have been used over the ages as an effective means of warfare. The earliest incident of biological weapons (BWs) occurred in the third century B.C., when the Carthaginian leader Hannibal filled up pots with venomous snakes and threw them onto enemy ships. (Cirincione, 48) Since then, biological weapons have been used very infrequently. This is mainly due to enormous cost required to create and handle BW's (many of the groups who have attempted to create such weapons have ended up infecting themselves more often then their intended targets). (Henderson, 25) In contrast, chemical weapons have been used fairly frequently in warfare. The earliest example of chemical weapons comes from the Trojan War when the Greeks "mixed sulfur and pitch resin to engulf enemy troops in toxic fumes." (Cirincione, 51) More recently the Germans and the Allies of World War I utilized the capabilities of chlorine gas in order to asphyxiate their enemies.(Slotten, 478) These weapons are thought to have been employed more frequently because they are more "humane" than biological or traditional weapons of war. Explains Capt. Alfred T Mahan of the U.S. Army after the Germans deployed chlorine gas during WWI, "the use of gases might make war more humane, instead of dying an agonizing death from horrible wounds, soldiers might be incapacitated by gas and then be humanely carted off to prisoner of war camps where they could quickly recuperate with no ill effects."(Slotten, 478) Though Mahan's rationale may be a little naïve, one can see why after the war there were many advocates for chemical weapons.

Since their application in WWI by both the...

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... the intelligence of the authorities in developed nations, who in turn can put political pressure on the nations building CBWs. Intelligence is the key. The more we know, the easier it is to stop terrorist groups and nations from using these weapons of mass destruction.


Cirincione, Joseph, with Jon B. Wolfsthal and Miriam Rajkumar, "Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction." The Brooking Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 2002.

Henderson, Harry, "Global Terrorism: The Complete Reference Guide." Checkmark Boook, 2001. New York, N.Y.

Moodie, Michael."Agents of Death." Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Spring 2000. v15 i1 p6.

Slotten, Hugh R. "Humane Chemistry or Scientific Barbarism? American Responses to World War I Poison Gas, 1915-1930." The Journal of American History, Volume 77, Issue 2. September, 1990. p. 476-498.

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