The United States of America have spent a considerable amount of time and money on making themselves the ‘Military Superpower’ of the world. Their constant quest to increase that power despite the fact that they are already leading the pack indicates the presence of economic reasons in addition to potential geopolitical acquisition (Martin Varsavsky n.d). The military and nuclear power standoff that the USA has been having with a few countries could lead them to consider other means of attack, in other words, it could trigger an Asymmetric Warfare – Biological Warfare is one of the biggest threats.
One of the most crippling facts about biological weapons if that they make use of toxins found in nature. That means, biological weapons can be developed by anybody with enough scientific knowledge. These could be toxins from dead animals, corpses, contamination using chemicals, feces, contaminated blood, etc. The scale of destruction when an infection like this spreads in a population is unparalleled – not only would it affect the health of a nation, it would also prove to be an emotional and economical setback.
Biological Warfare is not a new concept, it has been around for years and there is enough information on what can be harmful and to what extent. Anthrax is a natural product of dead animals and there are other toxins that are equally easily available and accessible (Flashback 2012). There are accounts of Scythian archers dipping their arrows in decomposing bodies to infect them and deliver a deadly attack. There are examples of sources of drinking water contaminated with corpses (Dire n.d). Biological agents can be invisible, odorless & tasteless and are easy to hide. A small amount of a biological weapon is enough to affect thousands of people (Dire n.d). All these facts make a biological attack much easier to carry out than a nuclear or military attack. Security is of utmost importance. For instance the flu virus that killed about 40 million people in 1918 is still in a laboratory, if it were to be let out, the mass destruction that it could bring about could level nations. Considering the population and power of the USA, a biological threat seems to be deadliest of all threats, because not only can it be used on the military, the attacks can be turned on civilians as well, thereby incapacitating the nation.
The most commonly employed methods of delivering a biological attack are through aerosol sprays, explosives, contaminating food and water and absorption or injection into the skin. Of all these methods, aerosol sprays turn out to be the most dangerous because they deliver air borne germs. Any person in the vicinity would breathe in the particles which can in turn lead to illnesses. Agents in explosives could be destroyed in the blast, food and water contamination would require huge amounts of agents and absorption or injection cannot be used on the scale of an epidemic (Dire n.d).
Terrorists planning to deliver a biological attack can do so in the numerous existing ways and discover new methods as well. It is important to be forewarned and take sufficient and appropriate precautionary measures. The United States itself indulged in offensive Biological Warfare Research until President Nixon renounced the program in 1960. A combination of home grown terrorists and scientists with knowledge of offensive biological weapons could prove to be disastrous. Also there are several other countries that have similar programs. Though there are requirements for State Declarations that detail the official position on the weapons and declaration of stockpiles or programs, there are several countries that have not complied with the same.
The USA has taken all precautions and has efficient security measures in place to ward off a nuclear or military attack. It is but natural for terrorists to look beyond them and devise new strategies. The ease of accessibility and convenience with which a biological weapon or attack can be delivered puts it above all other threats. It is important to be updated, curb any suspicious developments and be on vigil 24x7. Apart from that it is important to educate the masses about the various ways in which an attack can place so that they do not neglect anything or any instance as ‘not important’. With awareness and vigilance we will be able to combat any attack.