Biological Warfare

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The Principle of Biological Warfare

The principle of biological warfare has been studied in different ways in the past. Increased concern since the turn of the century can be due to increased global security challenges, including the 9/11 attacks in 2011. Biological warfare is an issue that needs more consideration because, in a world where conflict is becoming more popular, warring parties would use every tactic possible to outmaneuver their enemy. This includes the use of biological agents to damage a human population. The subject is well covered in all forms of information sources. This paper will, therefore, compare and contrast the coverage of biological warfare by three types of sources: academic journals, news articles, and video-based sources. I am of the opinion that the coverage of biological warfare across the three types is largely similar, with differences lying in the level of formality and perspective.

The Analysis of Biological Warfare Based on Three Different Types of Sources

The analysis of biological warfare based on three different types of sources offers a proper insight into how each of the sources presents information. The first source is an academic paper by the title "Biological Warfare, bioterrorism, and biocrime" authored by Jansen et al. Its approach is strictly formal with all material used in the paper cited appropriately. The second source is an article from the New York Times Magazine. It is written by Wil S. Hylton and goes by the title "How ready are we for bioterrorism." The news article offers an insight into the coverage of biological warfare by mass media. The last source is a TED talk by the name: "The next outbreak? We're not ready." It is a presentation by Bill Gates who explores biological warfare and how we can be more prepared for any eventualities.

Similarities Between the Sources

There are a couple of similarities in how the three sources cover biological warfare. They all explore the historical aspect of biological warfare. According to Hylton (n.p), "the use of biological weapons can be traced back to the ancient times when Hittites marched victims of plague into the cities of their enemies," and archers used arrows whose tips were dipped in manure in a bid to pick up anthrax. Hylton maintains that by the 20th century virtually every powerful nation had researched and sometimes even used a form of biological agent in war with examples of agents used being the plague, anthrax, and typhoid. The academic article also recounts the use of biological weapons in history. Jansen et al. (489) cite the following instances when biological warfare was carried out: "throwing of bodies of dead victims of plague into besieged cities in the Middle Ages; distribution of blankets from people who had smallpox to native Americans; and the distribution of fleas that were contaminated with plague to China by Japanese troops during the Second World War." Bill Gates' presentation, on the other hand, recounts the historical perspective of biological warfare by recounting how the global security threat has evolved from nuclear warfare to biological warfare (Gates n.p.). The comparison between the two types of security threats is similarly explored in the news article. One of the questions brought forward by Hylton is whether the risk of an attack using biological weapons has surpassed the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

All articles also review the threat of terrorism using biological weapons in the modern world. Hylton argues that nuclear terrorism is preventable since terrorists cannot make the materials required. For biological weapons, however, the case is different since it is impossible to prevent the terrorists' access to common pathogens that can be weaponized. He also argues that a postgraduate student can easily weaponize a pathogen without using very sophisticated equipment. Jansen et al. (490) cite the series of anthrax letters in the United States in 2001 as an example of the use of biological weapons in terrorism. This example is also cited by Hylton (n.p.) who also gives a narrative how Randal Larsen, a retired army general, was able to sneak in weaponized powder of Bacillus globigii into the White House thus illustrating the threat posed by biological weapons. Bill Gates, on the other hand, explores the potential of airborne pathogens as biological weapons. A mathematical model presented shows that if the Spanish flu epidemic were to happen today 30 million people would lose their lives (Gates n.p.). The simulation game presented by Gates is similar to the "Dark Winter" simulation that the US government ran (Hylton n.p.). Another important similarity across the sources is the concession that the world is not prepared to deal with a biological attack. Hylton cites the limited success of biodefense policies (n.p.) while Jansen et al. (491) blame the lack of enforcement of international conventions regarding biological warfare. Gates argues that the problem is not that systems fail in case of disease outbreaks but instead that we do not have systems at all.

Differences Between the Sources

Besides the similarities, the three sources also differ in some aspects. The news article by Hylton is the most expansive of the source with a bias towards the policy outlook regarding biological warfare in the United States. This is illustrated by an evaluation of the following: "Dark Winter" simulation and its reception by experts; spending on biodefense, and medical countermeasures to increase preparedness. The article includes direct conversational quotes which are indicative of the slightly informal approach that is adopted in news articles. However, the article is the most informative due to how deeply it covers the topic of biological warfare especially concerning what needs to be done. The academic article by Jansen et al., on the other hand, approaches biological warfare from an international perspective. This is illustrated by a review of the Geneva Protocol and the WHO guidelines regarding biological warfare. In this article, the use of biological weapons in terrorism is extensively covered unlike in the other sources. The paper even reviews requirements for biological agents for use in bioterrorism and current trends in the topic. Bill Gates' presentation is the most informal of the three sources and is arguably the shortest. It takes a different approach by relating recent disease epidemics to their potential as biological weapons. It also provides solutions that could help the world be better prepared to deal with not only epidemics but also biological attacks. This sets it apart from the other sources since it offers a chance for redemption for global authorities to increase preparedness.

Works Cited

Gates, Bill. “The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready.” TED 2015. [Video].

Hylton, Wil S. “How Ready Are We for Bioterrorism?” The New York Times Magazine. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2017.

Jansen, H.J., F.J. Breeveld, C. Stijnis, and M.P. Grobusch. “Biological Warfare, Bioterrorism, and Biocrime.” Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 20.6 (2014): 488-496.

January 05, 2023
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