Living Weapons: Biological Warfare and International Security


"Biological weapons are widely feared, yet rarely used. Biological weapons were the first weapon prohibited by an international treaty, yet the proliferation of these weapons increased after they were banned in 1972. Biological weapons are frequently called 'the poor man's atomic bomb,' yet they cannot provide the same deterrent capability as nuclear weapons. One of my goals in this book is to explain the underlying principles of these apparent paradoxes."?from Living Weapons


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Living Weapons: Biological Warfare and International Security

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"Biological weapons are widely feared, yet rarely used. Biological weapons were the first weapon prohibited by an international treaty, yet the proliferation of these weapons increased after they were banned in 1972. Biological weapons are frequently called 'the poor man's atomic bomb,' yet they cannot provide the same deterrent capability as nuclear weapons. One of my goals in this book is to explain the underlying principles of these apparent paradoxes."—from Living Weapons

Biological weapons are the least well understood of the so-called weapons of mass destruction. Unlike nuclear and chemical weapons, biological weapons are composed of, or derived from, living organisms. In Living Weapons, Gregory D. Koblentz provides a comprehensive analysis of the unique challenges that biological weapons pose for international security. At a time when the United States enjoys overwhelming conventional military superiority, biological weapons have emerged as an attractive means for less powerful states and terrorist groups to wage asymmetric warfare.

Koblentz also warns that advances in the life sciences have the potential to heighten the lethality and variety of biological weapons. The considerable overlap between the equipment, materials and knowledge required to develop biological weapons, conduct civilian biomedical research, and develop biological defenses creates a multiuse dilemma that limits the effectiveness of verification, hinders civilian oversight, and complicates threat assessments.

Living Weapons draws on the American, Soviet, Russian, South African, and Iraqi biological weapons programs to enhance our understanding of the special challenges posed by these weapons for arms control, deterrence, civilian-military relations, and intelligence. Koblentz also examines the aspirations of terrorist groups to develop these weapons and the obstacles they have faced. Biological weapons, Koblentz argues, will continue to threaten international security until defenses against such weapons are improved, governments can reliably detect biological weapon activities, the proliferation of materials and expertise is limited, and international norms against the possession and use of biological weapons are strengthened.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Koblentz provides an up-to-date and comprehensive analysis of biological weapons as a strategic problem that should become the standard text in the field. . . . The book draws lessons about intelligence, verification, and oversight, and also about what strategic value the offending countries sought to extract by pursuing such weapons. . . . Through a careful examination of actual cases, Koblentz has done his best to get the true measure of the bioterrorist threat."—Foreign Affairs (January/February 2010)

"Living Weapons is a succinct, highly readable analysis of the unique challenges presented by biological weapons. Koblentz provides an excellent summary of the historic utilities and disutilities posed by biological weapons to international actors and the potential erosion of constraints on their future use. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Koblentz thoroughly addresses the wide range of challenges that biological weapons pose to countries in the 21st century. . . . He explores these issues by weaving together historical information on Iraqi, Russian, South African, and Soviet biological weapons programs with analysis of the scientific and security challenges biological weapons present . . . [and] he recommends several possible ways for countries to decrease, unilaterally and multilaterally, the threat posed by biological weapons."—Arms Control Today (November 2009)

"A readable, succinct, yet through review of the myriad issues surrounding biodefense from a policy perspective. . . . More importantly, Living Weapons provides a disturbing yet refreshing look at the myriad obstacles confronting those who would play a role—whether political, diplomatic, or scientific—in attempting to rein in the use of biology in war and terror."—Emerging Infectious Diseases (October 2010)

"Living Weapons promises to stimulate attention and provoke thought on a very important topic. Gregory D. Koblentz writes clearly about the problems posed by biological weapons and provides particularly good summary accounts of the Soviet, Iraqi, and South African offensive programs."—John D. Steinbruner, University of Maryland, author of The Cybernetic Theory of Decision

"Gregory D. Koblentz's comprehensive and insightful study explores the unique dilemmas that biological weapons pose for defense, intelligence, arms control, and global governance. Filled with information and analysis, the book is a valuable resource for both scholars and policymakers."—Jonathan B. Tucker, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies

"Living Weapons presents a careful, authoritative analysis of a national security problem of great consequence that is often distorted by apocalyptic scenarios and ignorance of scientific complexities. With great clarity, Gregory D. Koblentz has moved the political discussion forward in an important and substantive direction that deserves a wide audience."—Jeanne Guillemin, author of Biological Weapons: From State-sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Gregory D. Koblentz is Deputy Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program and Assistant Professor of Government and Politics in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. He is coauthor of Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Map and Charts.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Acronyms and Scientific Terms xi

Introduction: The Threat of Biological Weapons 1

1 Offense, Defense, and Deterrence 9

2 Verification 53

3 Oversight 106

4 Intelligence 141

5 Biological Terrorism 200

Conclusion: Reducing the Danger Posed by Biological Weapons 228

Index 245

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