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Source: World and I, Jan 1999 v14 i1 p287(1).

Title: LEASHING THE DOGS OF WAR.(chemical and biological weapons)

Full Text COPYRIGHT 1999 News World Communications

The vast technological advances of the twentieth century have certainly aided and improved human life enormously, but they have also come with a terrible downside--war has become much more horrible and devastating. Whereas in previous centuries wars were fought with clubs, spears, swords, arrows, and then later shot and shell, today nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threaten the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people at a stroke.

Chemical and biological weapons have sometimes been called the poor country's nuclear weapons. The deployment of nuclear weapons requires either developing expensive and sophisticated science and technology or else buying the results of such technology on the international black market. But developing chemical or biological weapons requires considerably less expensive and sophisticated technology. In fact, technology and manufacturing facilities that are otherwise engaged in producing needed commodities for peaceful uses--such as fertilizer or industrial chemicals or medicine--may sometimes be diverted to make chemical or biological weapons.

Biological weapons may pose an especially fearful threat. Small amounts of certain biological toxins or agents that can be produced relatively easily and cheaply have the potential of being used as disease- producing agents to harm or kill a large percentage of the population of an urban area.

In our feature article this month, Milton Leitenberg takes up the problem of biological weapons, noting that in the 1990s there has been a resurgence of concern about them. He discusses the threat they pose and the work that has been done by various governments and nongovernmental agencies to develop such weapons. Leitenberg examines efforts to control or ban the production or use of biological weapons through international treaties and laws. He concludes that biological weapons will remain a concern into the twenty-first century and that the best prospects for their control lie in supporting a strong and intrusive international verification program.

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