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Ethics of Chemical and Biological Warfare

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Peter Van Lente

on 27 November 2012

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Transcript of Ethics of Chemical and Biological Warfare

The Ethics of Chemical and Biological Warfare By Peter Van Lente A Brief History of the Use of Chemical and Biological Weaponry Chemical Weapons are defined as chemical substances that can be delivered using munitions and dispersal devices to cause death or severe harm to people, animals and plants.


Biological Weapons are defined as harmful biological agents (as pathogenic microorganisms or neurotoxins) used as weapons to cause death or disease usually on a large scale. Sources Brain, Marshall. “How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works.” 2009. http://science.howstuffworks.com/biochem-war1.htm
Duffy, Michael. “Weapons of War – Poison Gas.” 2009. www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/gas.htm
Hooker, Dr. Edmond. “Biological Warfare.” 2012. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/biological_warfare/article_em.htm
Johnson, Thomas J. “A History of Biological Warfare from 300 B.C.E. to the Present.” American Association for Respiratory Care. 2001. http://www.aarc.org/resources/biological/history.asp
Ramirez, Anthony. “Was the Plague of Athens Really Ebola?” The New York Times. 1996. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/18/weekinreview/was-the-plague-of-athens-really-ebola.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
Reyes, Daniel. “The Ethics of Chemical and Biological Weaponry.” Santa Clara University. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. 2012. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/reyes/weaponry.html
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biological%20weapon
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/chemical+weapon Primary Ethical Issue: The use of chemical and biological weapons can be broken down into two categories:
Use on a small scale
Use on a large scale Small Scale PROS CONS Large Scale My Opinion The use of biological weapons began much earlier than the use of chemical weapons due to the fact that biological weapons are generally readily available in nature and require little knowledge of molecular science. One of the first documented uses of biological weaponry was the use of poison-tipped arrows in the Middle East dating before the year 400 BC. Such arrows were covered in a mixture of putrefied flesh and dung containing harmful bacteria including gangrene and tetanus. Another use of biological weaponry around this time was the suspected poisoning of Athenian wells by Spartans during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). After Sparta laid siege on Athens, a deadly epidemic broke out within Athens that wiped out roughly a quarter of the population. Sparta eventually won the war, but its reputation was hurt. PROS CONS More recently, British Commander Sir Jeffrey Amherst and his troops gave blankets ridden with smallpox to the Native Americans during the French and Indian War (1754-1767). The Native American population was devastated, as the Native Americans had no natural immunity to the disease. Is it ethical to research, develop, or use chemical and biological weapons? (Chemical and Biological Weapons used to wipe out an individual or a small rogue group) Solid and liquid biological and chemical agents can easily be concealed in the target's food or drink.
Anonymity (harder to determine attacker than when using conventional weapons)
An anonymous attack means less possibility for retaliation, leading to fewer lives lost. Such application of these weapons is not practical in a large scale conflict between two nations.
These weapons are often slow to kill and cause unnecessary pain to the target.
There is a degree of uncertainty as to whether or not the weapon will eliminate the target (requires supervision) Have the potential to put an end to an armed conflict by quickly incapacitating enemy forces
Can be justified by a utilitarian approach if the lives lost and damage done by the weapon to end the war are less than that caused by a continuation of the war Unintended civilian casualties (comparable to a nuclear weapon)
Potential to backfire I do not agree with the use of chemical or biological weapons in any scenario because it is illogical to use such weapons when conventional weapons (guns, explosives, etc.) are just as effective if not more effective at dispatching enemies.

Both groups of weapons cause great harm, but conventional weapons are predictable and the effects are seen immediately, whereas chemical and biological weapons are just the opposite. What about research involving possible chemical and biological agents? If the agent being researched has not yet been implemented as a weapon, the research poses a risk in that this research could fall into the wrong hands.

If a possible agent being researched has already been weaponized, only good can come from the research (vaccines, treatments) as the agent already poses a threat. (examples: smallpox, anthrax) The first largely recognized use of chemical warfare was the use of poison gases during trench warfare in World War I.

Poison gases used by both sides included chlorine gas and mustard gas.

These gases prove fatal in large amounts, blistering skin and dissolving the lungs. Third Geneva Convention (WWI) prohibited future use of poison gases.

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1975 prohibits the further development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons.

Likewise, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1992 prohibits the further development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons.

Both both the BWC and CWC also called for the destruction of any such weapons still in existence.
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