Ben Ouagrham-Gormley on Bioweapons Proliferation

GMU Biodefense’s Dr. Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley evaluates the effect of increased state efforts to deter bioweapons threat in her recent article, ” Dissuading Biological Weapons Proliferation”. Check out the abstract below, and look for the full article in this month’s issue of Contemporary Security Policy.

Abstract – “The terrorist and anthrax attacks of 2001 spurred many countries to raise defences against a possible biological weapon attack, and potentially dissuade state and non-state actors from developing these weapons. Yet these programmes’ dissuasive value – creating strong barriers to entry – has never been analysed. This article argues that current biodefence efforts are counterproductive and more persuasive than dissuasive, because they rest on a biological threat narrative that emphasizes the benefits of bioweapons rather than their problematic development and use, and they fail to impose a high cost of entry in the bioweapons field. The dominant biological weapons narrative perpetuates several misconceptions, including that there are no barriers to biological weapons development, that expertise is easily acquired from scientific documents, and that new technologies are black boxes with de-skilling effects. The net result is popularization of a cost/benefit analysis in favour of bioweapons development. To remedy the situation, I suggest correcting these misconceptions by reshaping the biological threat narrative, and recommend policies to achieve a greater dissuasive impact, stressing the role of the Biological Weapons Convention, preventing access to tacit biological weapons skills, and criminalizing bioweapons proliferation by making the development and use of biological weapons a crime against humanity.”

The full journal article is available here (access required).

(Image: a single Bacillus anthracis colony, credit CDC/J. Todd Parker; PhD and Luis Lowe; MS; MPH)

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