Biological Weapons Proliferation Threat: Past, Present, and Future Assessments and Responses   [open pdf - 128KB]

"It has been argued that there have been many instances of the use of biological weapons in the historical record. However, when assessed against a realistic set of criteria few of these examples are credible (Wheelis 1999). On the other hand, as soon as the scientific analysis of infectious diseases began to be clarified in the latter part of the 19th century states began to examine and apply this new knowledge for hostile purposes. Indeed it is reasonable to suggest that the series of large-scale state offensive biological weapons programmes of the 20th century progressively utilised the developing understanding of microbiology: bacteriology in the First World War; aerobiology in the Second World War; industrial production and virology in the early Cold War; and, genetic engineering in the late Cold War (Dando 1999). Moreover, it is becoming ever clearer that after the Second World War the victorious states considered biological weapons to be as serious a threat as nuclear weapons and that it was only as nuclear weapons became available to states that the biological weapons programmes declined in importance (Wheelis et al 2006). In the Soviet Union, of course, a massive enhancement of the offensive programme began in the 1970s and at least two other states-Iraq and South Africa-are known to have had offensive biological weapons programmes late in the 20th century."

Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Contemporary Conflict. Posted here with permission. Documents are for personal use only and not for commercial profit.
Retrieved From:
Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Contemporary Conflict: http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/
Media Type:
Strategic Insights (August 2007), v.6 no.5
Help with citations