Chemical–Biological Weaponry

June 18, 1969

Report Outline
Current Interest in Gas-Germ Weapons
C-B Weapons in and After World War I
New Debate on International Control

Current Interest in Gas-Germ Weapons

Risk in Spread of Silent and Secret Weapons

The weapons of chemical and biological warfare are being exposed to public view, a glimpse at a time. Some viewers, here and abroad, are deeply troubled by what they see. U.N. Secretary General U Thant told the General Assembly in July 1968 that such weapons pose a greater threat to world peace than nuclear arms “because they are easily accessible to poor nations as well as superpowers.” A multinational committee of experts established by the General Assembly last December, at the request of the Geneva Disarmament Conference, is scheduled to report to the Secretary General by July 1 on the global dangers of gas and germ warfare.

Perhaps anticipating the report, Britain's Lord Ritchie Calder has theorized that biological—or germ—warfare might be waged for years with only the secret aggressor aware of what was happening. “Then,” he added, “successive crop failures, devastation of herds by disease, unexplained human epidemics and a catastrophic fall in the birthrate would reveal the disease.” This specter raises broad moral and political questions for scientists and their governments.

A view now being expressed in Western science journals and in other forums is that such weapons are essentially genocidal and that research on them violates the ethical code of the scientist and the Hippocratic oath of the doctor. Another view, held especially by scientists engaged in making or testing materials for chemical or biological warfare, is that their first duty is to defend their country. They argue that possession of these weapons inhibits an enemy from using similar ones. And even if used, according to the same reasoning, gas or germ warfare is preferable to atomic warfare and might substitute for it.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Arms Control and Disarmament
International Law and Agreements