Biological Weapons

Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism

Jeanne Guillemin
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/guil12942
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  • Book Info
    Biological Weapons
    Book Description:

    Until the events of September 11 and the anthrax attacks of 2001, biological weapons had never been a major public concern in the United States. Today, the possibility of their use by terrorists against Western states looms large as an international security concern. In Biological Weapons, Jeanne Guillemin provides a highly accessible and compelling account of the circumstances under which scientists, soldiers, and statesmen were able to mobilize resources for extensive biological weapons programs and also analyzes why such weapons, targeted against civilians, were never used in a major conflict.

    This book is essential for understanding the relevance of the historical restraints placed on the use of biological weapons for today's world. It serves as an excellent introduction to the problems biological weapons pose for contemporary policymakers and public officials, particularly in the United States. How can we best deter the use of such weapons? What are the resulting policies of the Department of Homeland Security? How can we constrain proliferation? Jeanne Guillemin wisely points out that these are vitally important questions for all Americans to consider and investigate -- all the more so because the development of these weapons has been carried out under a veil of secrecy, with their frightening potential open to exploitation by the media and government. Public awareness through education can help calm fears in today's tension-filled climate and promote constructive political action to reduce the risks of a biological weapons catastrophe.

    Biological Weapons is required reading for every concerned citizen, government policymaker, public health official, and national security analyst who wants to understand this complex and timely issue.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50917-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-19)

    The history of biological weapons programs is a repetitive spectacle of biological science put to its worst use, of threats imagined and ignored, and of government secrecy increasing annihilating risks to civilians. Along the way, legal and technical restraints, civic awareness, and the decisions of key political actors have kept this innovative class of weapons from the destructive strategic uses its advocates envisioned. This book is about the twentieth-century incorporation of biological weapons into the arsenals of industrial states and its implications for present times, when new technologies and persistent political animosities may allow even more ominous threats than in...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Biological Agents and Disease Transmission
    (pp. 20-39)

    For most of history, people have believed that the transmission of disease is a mysterious phenomenon controlled not by humans but by the gods, witchcraft, or fate. Collective disease, including the sudden epidemics that decimated cities and armies, was a frequent but misunderstood occurrence. Often relying on the ancient Greeks, Western scholars and physicians from the Middle Ages well into the nineteenth century held firm to the notion that “miasma,” the stench of putrefaction, was the source of many epidemics and that changes in the weather or the planets increased the chances of outbreaks.¹ One of the positive results of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The United Kingdom and Biological Warfare The Remorseless Advance of Military Science
    (pp. 40-56)

    In 1940, the British government embarked on a biological warfare program that began serendipitously and yet established an enduring organizational model of laboratory research and field tests of munitions. The UK initiative pioneered the way for the American effort, which then greatly surpassed it in size but not in ingenuity. The British program presents an example of “inadvertent escalation” under circumstances of war, with high officials initially unaware that research on a new type of weapon had been authorized.¹ British dread of Germany’s destructive power motivated the decision to prepare retaliatory biological warfare capacity. Earlier suspicion of Germany’s capacity and...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The United States in World War II Industrial Scale and Secrecy
    (pp. 57-74)

    The 1940 establishment of the Biology Department at Porton was an organizational innovation that pointed the United Kingdom toward a retaliatory biological weapons capacity of strategic proportions, a goal espoused by no other nation at that time. Producing five million anthrax cattle cakes was the program’s first response, to be ready for retaliation should Germany attack with any kind of germ weapon. The prototype anthrax bomb tested at Gruinard and Penclawdd was the next, more serious effort. That seemingly small success opened the door to Frederick Banting’s vision of biological weapons on an industrial scale, which the United States then...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Secret Sharing and the Japanese Biological Weapons Program (1934–1945)
    (pp. 75-91)

    As World War II was ending, Secretary of War Henry Stimson ordered that research and development in biological warfare should continue. The Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service (renamed the Chemical Corps in 1946) was put in charge of the program, and he was to be guided by the advice of the Surgeon General on medical aspects. The Army and Navy were expected to continue their cooperation. The newly established Air Force joined them in 1948. Partnerships with Canada and the United Kingdom also continued.¹

    For a brief time after the war, the US program showed considerable openness about its...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Aiming for Nuclear Scale The Cold War and the US Biological Warfare Program
    (pp. 92-111)

    The American officers who interviewed Japanese biological warfare scientists in 1947 quickly realized that US achievements were technically superior to those of Gen. Ishii Shiro’s program. By the end of World War II, the American, British, and Canadian programs had learned much about airborne infection and about a diversity of biological agents, had improved defenses against some of them, and had come close to mass production of an anthrax bomb.¹ The atomic bomb and the Cold War signaled a momentous change in the US biological weapons program. The vision of the scale of intentionally spreading disease expanded to strategic attacks...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Nixon Decision
    (pp. 112-130)

    While US field tests of biological weapons were reaching new heights of realism, political forces were at play that would make all offensive biological weapons programs illegal. The era of legitimate state retaliation in kind, begun by the French in the 1920s, ended with President Nixon’s 1969 renunciation of biological weapons for the US and with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. By 1975, when the treaty came into force and also when the US finally ratified the Geneva Protocol, comprehensive international legal norms against state programs and the possession or use of biological weapons were in place.

    In the United...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Soviet Biological Weapons Programs
    (pp. 131-147)

    The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention completed the codified restraints on germ weapons: not only their use but also any preparations or possession for such use were outlawed. Biological weapons, the only weapon of mass destruction then internationally banned, became legally distinct from chemical weapons, which had a demonstrated if limited tactical potential and some potential for deterrence, as during World War II when neither the Allies nor Germany dared initiate first use. Biological weapons also became legally set apart from nuclear weapons, which had known strategic power and the potential for deterrence against use during the Cold War. After 1975,...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Bioterrorism and the Threat of Proliferation
    (pp. 148-166)

    As the Cold War was ending, new hopes emerged for a strengthened Biological Weapons Convention through a protocol with strong compliance measures. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention offered a model of team inspections, mandatory verification procedures, and a standing organization, located in The Hague. Why not similar fortifications for the BWC?

    From the beginning, the United States proved wary of multilateral accord that would require transparency and subject it to international law. In 1991, it requested that a range of verification measures should be reviewed before protocol negotiations began. Two years later the Ad Hoc Group of Governmental Experts produced...

  13. CHAPTER 9 National Security and the Biological Weapons Threat
    (pp. 167-185)

    The September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on the United States and the anthrax postal attacks that soon followed together intensified Clintonera policies already in place for national security and defense against biological weapons. The federal intelligence budget rose again. The domestic preparedness programs in place throughout the United States received more support, as did funding for technological defenses, from air sensors to new pharmaceuticals. The great change after 9/11 was in the organizational scale of the Bush administration responses to this unprecedented foreign attack on Americans. The minor use of force, that is, the 1997 bombings of Afghanistan and...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Biological Weapons Restraints Against Proliferation
    (pp. 186-206)

    Biology today is as susceptible to hostile exploitation as were chemistry in World War I and physics in World War II. The formidable power of international commerce is behind this basic science, moving it toward innovations that, along with marketable medical value, might also be turned to destructive ends. If exploited by states, the science and technology of biological weapons could pose one of the most serious problems humanity has ever faced. A new generation of biological weapons, if pursued with vigor, could make them technologically competitive, especially for human control and domination. Unless the power of biotechnology is politically...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 207-242)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 243-258)