Term Paper: Chemical and Biological Warfare

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Chemical & Biological Warfare

The idea behind both chemical and Biological warfare is that there are agents that can be introduced into the atmosphere and/or a person's immediate area that can do damage more quickly than conventional weapons that maim and do physical damage. In chemical warfare, chemical substances and their toxic properties are used as weapons. In biological warfare, also often termed germ warfare, infectious agents and biological toxins are used. Most people think of using these types of warfare to kill or severely injure human beings, but they can also be used to damage animal populations or plant life. Both chemical and biological warfare plans are generally set into motion in order to get a strategic or tactical advantage, and the individual or group of individuals focused on this kind of warfare must use the utmost care to avoid harm to themselves. Chemical and biological weapons can and do backfire and harm those who intend to use them against others if they are not handled carefully.

Addressed here will be both biological and chemical warfare options. The types of weapons that were (and still are) used, the battles and skirmishes in which those weapons have been seen, and the history behind the weapons are all very important to a clear understanding of the different types of weapons and why they are so valuable when it comes to fighting military battles. These kinds of weapons have also been used in incidents of both foreign and domestic terrorism, so that is also something that has to be addressed and considered in order to develop a complete understanding of the value and the danger that is presented when people elect to use these options for weaponry. While they may not do as much obvious damage as something like a bomb or gun, chemical and biological weapons can be just as deadly in the right (or wrong) hands.

Chemical Warfare

Chemical substances are not always harmful. Many of them are used every day with no actual problem and no adverse affects. The longer society lives and continues to advance, the more chemical compounds are created and discovered, and the more is done with these compounds in the way of treating and preventing disease. However, there is a dark side to the issues. There are toxic properties of many kinds of chemical substances, and they can be used as weapons (Brophy & Fisher, 1959; Janata, 2009). Sometimes they are used in war, and sometimes they are used by individual terrorists, but either way they can result in significant damage to and loss of life (Hammond, 1999). The idea of chemical warfare is often lumped in with biological and nuclear warfare (Janata, 2009). The military uses the acronym NBC for those weapons as a group, and they are all termed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009).

There are also conventional weapons, but chemical and other WMD designated weapons do not fall under that designation because they have the potential to be extremely destructive. Chemical warfare needs no explosive force or other detonation in order to do a serious level of damage (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009). The chemical agent itself, and the unique properties that belong to that chemical agent, are enough to cause the death and devastation that those who employ chemical weapons against others are looking for (Brophy & Fisher, 1959). The goal of the chemical weapon is to be a lethal agent that will incapacitate or injury the enemy. Sometimes, these chemical agents are also used over a wide area of terrain in order to deter an enemy from using that terrain in any kind of unhindered manner (Haber, 1986; Hammond, 1999). This can be very effective for keeping unwanted people, animals, and plants away from a particular dwelling or structure, but can also be used in actual combat to ensure that the enemy does not gain access to field, forests, or other areas that are too close to an encampment or other protected area (Janata, 2009).

If vegetation is the problem - or if the goal is to keep the enemy from using vegetation as a cover in which to hide - a defoliant can be used (Janata, 2009). The promoting of starvation and hunger against pests or livestock is another reason why a defoliant might be used (Janata, 2009). The enemy may be forced to surrender if he or she suddenly has no food because the livestock have died due to lack of vegetation. It is also possible that the enemy will be more easily captured if there is no vegetation and foliage in which he can conceal himself. Defoliants take very little time to work, and they are highly effective chemical weapons (Brophy & Fisher, 1959; Burck & Flowerree, 1991). It is not always necessary to deploy a chemical agent that will directly target human beings to have a significant impact on the enemy and his or her interests. Those who want to avoid chemical weapons can do so, however, if they are properly prepared. Training, proper protective equipment, and measures that are specific to decontamination are all available to people who want to overcome or mitigate the primary effects of these weapons (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009).

In many nations, there are huge stockpiles of chemical weapons (Janata, 2009). They are prepared for use in wartime, if they are ever needed. Naturally, the hope is that they will remain dormant, but the threat of them and what they can do remains. This threat, and the counter-threat from other countries that also have these chemical agents, are tools of strategy for a large number of countries when it comes to wartime measures and counter measures (Haber, 1986; Hammond, 1999). While there have been talks among countries about destroying these kinds of weapons so they can no longer cause such a danger, it is not likely that this will ever take place, simply because there is too much at stake with these weapons. They provide a measure of safety and security for these countries, and they also provide a show of strength (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009). A country would be foolish to give that kind of thing up when there are other countries that still intend to retain their chemical weaponry. Additionally, chemical weapons in some form have been used for thousands of years, so they are not new to the arsenals of countries (Burck & Flowerree, 1991).

Modern chemical warfare, however, started in the First World War (Brophy & Fisher, 1959). In the beginning of chemical warfare, the chemicals that were used were commercially available and very well-known. Phosgene and chlorine gases were two of the most commonly used options (Janata, 2009). The gases were dispersed toward the enemy when the battle was taking place, but the way this was done was not at all efficient. Trench warfare made for highly static troop positioning, though, so even unrefined ways of dispersing chemical agents could result in very heavy casualties (Janata, 2009). The first country to start using chemical warfare on the battlefield was Germany. Instead of attempting some fancy way of getting the chemicals to the enemy, they simply took canisters of chlorine and opened them upwind of the enemies they were fighting (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009). The way the wind was blowing took care of getting the deadly gas to the opposing troops, which was a crude delivery method but was relatively effective.

It was not long after that when French troops modified artillery munitions so they had the ability to hold phosgene (Janata, 2009). That was much more effective than relying on an upwind position, and became the most commonly used means for delivery. Ever since chemical warfare was developed and used in any kind of modern context, many nations have actively pursued development and research of chemical agents and weapons (Haber, 1986). There are four major categories for research and development, although each country has its own plans. The categories are: more efficient methods of delivery to the target, more and better means of defense against chemical agents, better and more accurate means of detective chemical agents, and agents that are newer and more deadly than was previously offered (Janata, 2009). During the last couple of centuries, there have been approximately 70 different chemicals that have either been stockpiled or stockpiled and used as agents of chemical warfare (Hammond, 1999; Janata, 2009).

Some of the agents are in liquid form, and others are solids or gases. Chemicals come in many different types, potencies, and consistencies, and a large number of them have properties that are highly toxic to humans, plants, animals, or all of those groups. Generally, liquid agents are designed to have a very high rate of evaporation (Janata, 2009). They have a very high vapor pressure, and are commonly referred to as volatile. Their volatility is actually extremely important, because it allows for them to be spread over a very large area quickly (Janata, 2009). Naturally, it is easy to see why… [END OF PREVIEW]

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