Illogic of the Biological Weapons Taboo   [open pdf - 260KB]

"Despite the continued utility of the 'strategy of arms control,' we argue in this article that the international community is constructing an ill-considered and potentially dangerous biological weapons taboo that rebukes its fundamental logic. For decades, states attempted to develop an arms control regime that limited both the acquisition and use of biological weapons. However, efforts to limit biological weapons capabilities have now stalled, even as prohibitions on biological weapons use have been maintained and even strengthened. The resulting regime effectively allows states to retain suspicious capabilities that are inevitably viewed as threatening by many of their peers. In turn, relying upon states to uphold a taboo against using these weapons seems increasingly irrelevant in a world where nonstate actors might too readily acquire or develop dangerous capabilities. These developments are particularly worrisome in an international context featuring a large number of states embracing the logic of preventive counterproliferation--and attributing hostile intentions to 'evil' or 'outlaw' states defined by their domestic political structure, nonsecular leadership, alleged links to transnational terrorist groups, and/or perceived hostility toward other states.We begin with a brief review of the classic strategic logic of arms control. Next, we provide a description of the evolution of the biological weapons regime, ending with an overview of the 2001 proposed verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and subsequent efforts to strengthen the regime. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the perils of a biological weapons taboo that appears to preserve deadly capabilities while greatly fearing and absolutely prohibiting their use."

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Strategic Studies Quarterly (Spring 2010), v.4 no.1, p.6-35
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