News | Dec. 1, 2009

A Policymaker’s Guide to Bioterrorism and What To Do About It

By Richard J. Danzig

Our vulnerability to the use of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and other technologies to create terror is a risk. These technologies provide instruments that can be seized upon by any group for use as weapons of terror. So long as grievances exist and those who hold grievances are willing to resort to violence, those use of such weapons will be an enduring risk. The sweep of history suggests that these risks cannot be eradicated. Apart from the dum-dum bullet, we cannot point to examples of effective weapons that have not been used. Once used successfully, weapons tend to proliferate. That proliferation is abetted when the skills that can produce a weapon are closely related to civilian skills and equipment that are themselves proliferating. To cope with our inherent vulnerability to weapons of terror, we must find strategies of risk management.

This paper draws together several years of work in an attempt to suggest the outlines of this thinking about the risk that the author regards as most pernicious: biological terrorism. It is written for those who desire a better understanding of this risk and its implications for policymakers.