Free «Weapons of Mass Destruction» Essay Sample

Weapons of mass destruction, WMD, are artilleries that are capable causing a significant level of death and destruction. These weapons are classified into five major categories, which include explosives, nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological artilleries. The research on WMD began in the period following the outbreak of the First World War, with the industrialized nations competing in the manufacturing of advanced artilleries. By 1940, success in research on weaponry has led to the emergence of powerful nations such as Japan, Germany, Britain, United States, and the Soviet Union. For instance, superior artillery had enabled the Imperial Navy of Japan to administer a major part of Asia as Germany controlled most of continental Europe (Albin, 2001).

Despite efforts to curb proliferation of WMD, breakthrough remained indecisive, a fact that caused major concerns until the late 1980s. The relative calmness, that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major stockpiling empire, did not last long (Rivera, 2003). By 1991, anxiety had shifted from the possibility of a major world war into the consequences of proliferation of weapon technology amongst the rogue states. The concern was that such states would then aid radical groups in their strategies of terrorizing communities and states that they consider obstructive. As such, there has been a diplomatic campaign aimed at impeding terrorists’ access to weapons technology and material from the proliferating states such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, and North Korea. These states seek the approach the former Soviet Union’s scientists 20 percent of whom, according a 2003 survey, would consider aiding any state to acquire weapons technology (Arquilla, 2008). Consequently, nations around the world have initiated programs that attempt to engage these former weapon scientists in more meaningful engagements. These programs have become effective strategies that reduce weapons proliferation. This is because once the scientists have attained self-sustainability; they opt to lead decent livelihoods. This paper evaluates the advantages of instituting democratic dialogues while aiming to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


Biological Weapons

Biological warfare, or germ warfare, is the utilization of agents with the aim of causing disease. These agents include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and biological toxins that incapacitate or kill humans and other living organisms. Biological weapons are composed of living organisms and other replicating entities that reproduce within their hosts. An example of biological warfare is the entomological warfare. Just like nuclear and chemical weapons, biological weapons are utilized in various modes in an attempt to gain tactical or strategic advantage over the enemy, either by actual deployment or threat. Chemical and biological may target an individual, a group, or an entire population (Arreguin-Toft, 2005). Although these weapons have been acquired and stockpiled by nation-states throughout history, there is a growing concern that if acquired by non-national groups, they are likely to facilitate bioterrorism. Due to the overlap between chemical and biological warfare, the weapons used in the two instances are regulated by the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention. However, the effectiveness of these conventions is, at times, hindered by distrust amongst nations.

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The Intervention in Production and Use

Offensive bio-warfare, as well as the mass production and stockpiling of these weapons, were outlawed in 1972 by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Since then, this treaty has been ratified by 163 countries, all of whom have agreed to prevent biological attacks. These countries appreciate that the use of biological weapons would result into huge numbers of civilian casualties, a scenario which would in effect disrupt the societal and economic infrastructure. Since the Biological Weapons Convention did not prohibit defensive research, several countries are still pursuing protective measures, which would reduce the effects of a biological attack. Nation-states that possess these weapons are presumed to be powerful as they have the ability to influence or dominate other nations at will. This is because the levels of death and destruction caused by biological weapons are of greater magnitude than those caused by nuclear, conventional, or chemical weapons. Therefore, these weapons act more as strategic deterrence than offensive tools in combat (Brezina, 2005). Biological weapons are, however, not as effective as nuclear and chemical weapons in stopping enemy advancement. This is because it takes days for their effectiveness to be felt. They, nevertheless, have the capacity to cause person-to-person transmission, which means that, despite the delay, the eventually cause devastation of great magnitude. In essence, the main concern of the international community is that the effects of these weapons may spread to unintended populations who may include friendly or neutral forces. For this reason, it is believed that terrorist organizations would shun handling biological weapons as they have insufficient expertise in dealing with the resulting consequences.

Brief History

The initial mass production of biological weapons took place in Germany during the First World War. The Germans used these weapons in their attacks on Russian, and although statistics of casualties were never collected, it is widely believed that fatalities were high. Recognizing the losses that Germany inflicted on the Allies, the League of Nations prohibited the utilization of biological and chemical weapons in 1925 through a Geneva Protocol. The Protocol, however, did not offer guidelines on experimentation, manufacture, transfer, or storage, and this vagueness necessitated later treaties in an attempt to cover some of these aspects. However, even before the onset of the Second World War, this protocol was not fully implemented, and several nations continued to produce the disease causing agents. Notable countries include Japan and the Nazi Germany. In Japan, the Imperial Army’s Unit 731 did utilize biological weapons, an action that caused fatalities among prisoners (Cordesman, 2002).

Formal Accusations of Misuse

There have been several accusations concerning the use of chemical and biological weapons, some of which have been difficult to substantiate. For instance Red Cross accused Israel of using biological weapons to attack Gaza and the town of Acre during the war of independence. The authorities in China, North Korea, and Cuba have accused the United States of using biological weapons on different occasions. It is believed that the United States used an agent called brucellosis during the Korean War (Thornton, 2007). This accusation prompted the classification of biological weapons in order of their severity. Further allegations were that other disease vectors like fleas were in wide application, which had the potential of spreading far and wide (Cordesman, & Al-Rodhan, 2006). The applications of these weaponries have been continuing, though on limited scale, to the present day. The continuance is attributable, in part, to the failure of the international community to facilitate proper negotiations aimed at destroying stockpiles, some of which dates back to the 1940s. For these negotiations to be effective, governments and international organizations need to incorporate democratic practices, where every member state has substantial influence in decision making.

Chemical Weapons

The utilization of chemical weapons has evolved from the ancient times. However, in the modern history, documented accounts of the First World War indicate that an attack using chemicals such as chlorine gas, Verdun, and mustard gas were common. These attacks were atrocious, and it is estimated that mustard gas killed 1,300,000 soldiers. Indeed, historians believe that had the authorities failed to distribute gas masks then the death toll would have risen significantly. Chemical weapons were used in several other engagements, including the Russian civil war and the War of the Rif in Morocco. Following the devastation of the 1925 mustard gas attacks in Morocco, the community of nations resolved to pass the Geneva Protocol with the aim of curtailing utilization in the manufacture of war heads (D’Agostino, 2011). Despite the international agreement, rogue states such as Italy and Japan continued to use chemical attacks against their enemy combatants, and their actions provoked widespread diplomatic protest. Observers kept maintaining that democratic negotiations were the only solution to the crises, citing the ineffectiveness of the war in curtailing threats to international peace and security.

Deployment in Warfare

The highest levels of chemical weapon stockpiles were leached during the cold-war, a period when NATO competed against the Soviets in the research and production of sophisticated chemical weapons. Their production in massive quantities, however, led to their proliferation, which contributed to devastating consequences in various regions of the world. For instance, during their military engagement in Yemen, the Egyptian forces attacked their adversaries using mustard gas, an action that inflicted heavy military and civilian casualties. Similar scenario resulted when the Americans used dioxin and defoliants to attack the Vietnamese. Other chemical warfare includes the Afghan-Soviet war and the Iraq-Iran war (Hammes, 2006). Citing these devastating consequences, the United States, Russia, and United Nations have endeavored to rid the world of chemical weapons. Currently, the world appreciates the danger that terrorist would pose to the world peace should they acquire the chemical weapons.  This worry had been aggravated since terrorists used sarin in a 1995 Tokyo subway attack which resulted in to the death of 8 people. This re-emphasized the need for disarmament talks that aimed at sensitizing nations on the need to reduce their stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear warheads have been the greatest bone of contention with regard to the weapons of mass destruction. The production and deployment of nuclear bombs is among the most debated topics of the present times. These debates are aimed at curtailing proliferation of nuclear technology to new countries and groups due to the danger they pose to humans and property. A nuclear warhead is a device that derives its devastating force from reactions in the atomic nucleus. These reactions may be fission or fusion in nature, and both release huge amounts of energy as compared to the small quantities of matter used (Nwanna, 2004). In fact, a nuclear device with a size of a conventional explosive has the capacity to devastate a big city through its radiation, fire, and blast. As such, nuclear warheads have been classified as weapons of mass destruction, and their application and control has been dominating policy making on the international arena for quite some time. However, inadequate democracy has been the biggest challenge to disarmament talks.

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Evolution of Nuclear Weaponry

Throughout the history of warfare, only two nuclear devices have ever been used. The two were dropped on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the American forces in 1945, causing widespread destruction and massive casualty figure. Most of the 200,000 fatalities were civilians, and the huge cost forced the Japanese to surrender. Since those fateful moments, several ethical questions have been raised with regard to the application of nuclear explosives in warfare. Since the Second World War, nuclear devices have been exploded on at least 2,000 occasions for demonstration and testing purposes. Nevertheless, only a handful of nations possess nuclear warheads, and concerted efforts have been employed to bar more nations from acquiring them. The world nuclear powers include the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan. Additionally, Israel is widely believed to be in possession of nuclear warheads, though it has failed to acknowledge such allegations.

Following their defeat in World War II, Japan and Germany abandoned nuclear weapon research. Nevertheless, other nations proceeded in the search for superior weapons. A couple of the nations were successful; for instance, in August 1949, the USSR test-fired a nuclear weapon. Three years later, the United Kingdom acquired nuclear warheads. Other nuclear-armed nations include France, which tested a nuclear weapon in 1960; the People's Republic of China, that acquired the weapon in 1964; and India whose research on the bomb proved successful in 1974. Lately, Pakistan tested a weapon in 1998, and termed it as a deterrence tool against possible Indian invasion. North Korea joined the league of nuclear-armed nations in 2006 (Sagan, & Waltz, 2003).

The Nuclear Crisis

On many occasions, the world has come on the blink of nuclear war. One such occasion is during the Cuban missile crisis when the Soviets attempted to place ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba. The United States, citing the capability of ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads, protested intensely, causing anxiety throughout the world (Eric & James, 2005). Since these difficult times, policies and strategies have been formulated to help prevent nuclear engagements. Nations have been solicited in order to avoid launching nuclear engagements as deterrence. In the recent past, there have been concerted efforts by the military and policy makers in nuclear powers which aim at preventing nuclear combats.

Proliferation of Weapon Technology and Materials

The most controversial issue with regard to nuclear is the effect of proliferation. Despite acting as an effective deterrence to an all out war between states, there is a widespread believe that rogue states may use nuclear weapons to wage war on other countries. This worry was exacerbated during the Iraq-Iran war, and the First Gulf War. During the two instances, Saddam Hussein’s regime admitted having had used weapons of mass destruction. His admission heightened the worry that should he acquire nuclear missiles, he would not hesitate to fire them into an enemy nation (Gurr & Cole, 2002). Furthermore, there was concern that President Hussein would provide terrorists with nuclear arsenals among other weapons of mass destruction. In such cases, the possession of nuclear weapons would not be adequate deterrence to invasion.

Non-Proliferation Efforts

The UN and G8 have recognized that proliferation of WMD poses a threat to the world’s peace and stability. For this reason, there have been concerted efforts aimed at bar states such as Iran from acquiring WMDs, especially the nuclear warheads. The world sees the spread of international terrorism as an endangerment to the transportation of WMD and appreciates the need for formulating multifaceted solutions to these challenges (Pillar, 2003). The two organizations have been calling on the nations of the world to cooperate with global institutions that have been established to deal with such matters such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. Moreover, there have been calls for global partnership in the elimination or reduction of stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons (Johnson, 2004). Elimination is favored because it is the surest way of preventing terrorist acquisition of these weapons. In this regard, nations have ratified treaties to effect reduction, although progress has been slow.

The Non Proliferation Treaty

The countries in G8, as well as others in the industrialized world, have, on several occasions, reaffirmed the commitment to the application of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions, and the Chemical Weapons Conventions. These treaties are considered to be indispensable tools in maintaining global peace and security. The United Nations have condemned North Korea for its failure to halt plutonium production and uranium enrichment programs. This, according to the UN, is a breach of the nation’s international obligations. North Korea has on several occasions been urged to return to the six party talks that are aimed at helping the country to dismantle nuclear installations (Kort & Nolan, 2010). The UN argues that such a move would be the first step towards a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The international community has not ignored the implications of nuclear warhead acquisition by Iran. Iran has been urged to comply with the NTP. Furthermore, the community of nations expects Iran to ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol before allowing comprehensive examination of her nuclear installations. Nations that possess WMD are required to establish efficient procedures that facilitate safe transfer of materials, expertise, and technology from one location to another. These nations are also expected to formulate standards that can facilitate secure handling and storage of these materials with their borders (Starkey et al, 2005). This would reduce the possibility of these artilleries falling in the hands of terrorists. Several nations have indicated their readiness to help in securing these materials as they recognize the danger that they pose to the entire world.

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Principled Negotiation Strategies

In spite of necessity to oblige with these petitions, only a handful of the targeted nations have complied. This shortcoming has resulted from the international community’s failure to recognize that every proliferation challenge has a unique remedy. As such, there is a need to employ the tools that help resolve a case in the most effective manner. Several diplomats believe that deadlocks during negotiations regarding weapons of mass destruction results from deep mistrust between the parties.  In most instances, the situation is complicated by political and religious incompatibility as well as the cultural distance between the negotiating parties. In such situations, it becomes hard to establish a relationship of mutual understanding and trust between the negotiating parties. Considering the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, negotiations have been difficult as no side signals the intention of ceding grounds. Additionally, none of the two parties expresses the desire to make new offers (Langford, 2004). Without the establishment of a common ground for negotiations, an agreement will remain elusive as no practical issues will ever be tackled. For instance, as much as the UN Security Council attempts to convince Iran to destroy its existing uranium stockpile, Iran argues that the Council had in the past breached its agreements concerning the issue. As a matter of fact, the Iranian nuclear crisis has been more of a political issue than a security one. Recognizing this fact, few diplomats engage in negotiations open-mindedly. Islamic Republic of Iran has on several occasions argued that since the industrialized nations have failed to honor past agreements, there is no point of trusting new promises.

 Negotiation Loopbacks

Throughout history, numerous attempts have failed to settle issues that surround nations’ ambitions to acquire WMD. Often, disputing parties quit negotiations whenever they perceive better outcome in case a different approach is employed. At times, powerful parties opt to pursue force-based strategies, a situation which, in most instances, worsens the relationship between the disputants. When this happens, the return to peaceful negotiations becomes difficult, and when it happens, the prevailing mistrust hinders progress.

Ambiguity in International Law and Diplomacy

On many occasions, impositions of sanctions have proved to be ineffective, especially in situations where a nation has alternative sources of revenue.  Indeed, sanctioning increases mistrust, this in effect makes a regime remain adamant. Furthermore, some nation states take advantage of the vagueness in some United Nation Security Council’s resolutions to advance their interest. A notable case is that of the Gulf War II. In 1990, the Security Council had passed the Resolution 678 that demanded the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The state member nations were authorized to use force and provide any other necessary support to ensure that the Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait. However, the resolution was never revoked. In 2003, the United Nation Security Council passed and adopted the Resolution 1441, recognizing Iraqi non compliance with the other resolutions regarding weapons of mass murder and destruction threatened the international peace and security, and the international community could not sit back and watch. The Council echoed that resolution 678 which had not been revoked authorized a forceful restoration of peace and security. Thus, the United States and Allied nations argued that resolution 1441 in effect implied that the application of force was legal. The United Nation has authorized the forceful restoration of peace and security in other nations such as Somalia, Sierra Leone, and Korea. In all these instances, the legality of such resolutions was disputed, with critics arguing that intervention had been unnecessary. The UN operation in Korea raised ethical questions after allegations by China that weapons of mass murder were used.

Effects of Self-Enforcing Agreements during Negotiations

The international customary laws require all sovereign states to refrain from threatening or using force in a manner that undermines the political independence and territorial integrity of any other state. States are also restrained from actions that are inconsistent with the United Nations Purposes. This rule was adopted in a 1945 United Nation Charter with the aim of restricting states from unjustifiably using force against each other. However, the political leadership of the powerful nations has on several occasions threatened to engage political and diplomatic adversaries militarily in an attempt to coerce them into submitting. They also require the aggressed country to avoid attacking the international forces, a demand that contradicts the United Nation Charter article 51. Article 51 safeguards the right any  country to act in a manner aimed to defend itself, either solely or with the assistance of other nations, when attacked by an external aggressor (Merom, 2003). This means that a member state of the United Nations is allowed to defend itself as it waits for the Security Council to take measures aimed at maintaining the international harmony and security. However, since the member exercising her right of defense is required to report such measures to the Security Council, the members of the Security Council have been influencing actions in a manner that, at times, appear to be biased. This is in contradiction with the goals of establishing the Security Council, which was the maintenance of peace, harmony, and security without bias. Nevertheless, the United Nation and all its affiliates are political establishments, and, as such, major powers seek to maintain the current political leverage because it favors them.

Article 51 and other sections of the United Nation Charter have been cited by several states as they try to justify hostilities. The United States of America cited it to justify the legality of their involvement in the Vietnam War. This involvement generated much controversy, which in effect complicated the Vietnamese civil war. The Americans argued that, although South Vietnam was not an independent nation or a member of the UN, it had the right to self-defend itself (Stern, 2000). The territory of South Vietnam was allowed to defend itself either solely, or with the help of friendly nations. This is because collective defense was not only legal but also ethical. However, Article 51 and other Articles of the UN Charter are difficult to apply with certainty in a real-life situation. Opinions regarding their meaning and implications are also varied. For example, which some people argue that Article 2(4) only bans aggression towards the political independence and territorial integrity of a state, others believe that these simply intensives. Their opinion is that the article was composed to impose a general prohibition, and the only exceptions are those articulated in the Charter on self defense and Chapter VII that expounds on the actions reserved for the Security Council as it seeks to restore peace. Considering the case of Vietnam, the international law lacked clear guidelines that ought to have been followed by the coalition of friendly nations who aimed at rescuing South Vietnam (Zartman & Rubin, 2002). Charter 51 was adopted to help avoid another major war which would bring untold suffering to the world community. It evolved following the consequences of the First and the Second World War, and the United Nation wanted to minimize the probability of another war outbreak.

Article 51 has become the main aspiration of the United Nation, and it is widely considered as a part of the International Customary Law (Viktor, 1991). The article bans any state from involving itself in an armed engagement except for the two situations that are authorized through the United Nation Charter. Firstly, citing the provisions in Chapter VII, and articles 24 and 25 of the United Charter, the United Nation Security Council may a collective action against the attacking state in order to enforce and maintain international peace and security. Secondly, Article 51 safeguards the right of a nation to self defense. However, some states make controversial claims aiming to justify their right to humanitarian intervention, protection of their national in foreign nations, and reprisals. These controversies influences antagonism during the negotiations aimed at disarmament. Democratizing the disarmament talks has the potential of reducing the level of mistrust, and this would in effect have a positive impact in the reduction of the world’s weaponry stockpiles.

Talks aimed at committing the world’s nations to WMD disarmament needs to be all inclusive and free of intimidation. Although the powerful nations argue that the threat of nuclear proliferation comes from states that have not signed the NPT, the scrutiny need to apply to every nuclear nation without partiality (Wright, 2005). Nations that are yet to sign include Israel, Pakistan, and India; and of the three, Pakistan is the only country that has ever admitted to proliferating weapon technology to non-nuclear states. Moreover, proliferation


Engaging in constructive dialogue has proved to be the most effective way of reducing proliferation of weapon technology. Remarkable progress has been observed in situations where nations establish extensive trade relations irrespective of the artillery disagreement. In some instances, imposing, even the most severe economic blockages, has only been provoking defiance.

In essence, democratizing the negotiation process has been effective, though on limited capacity, which means that success is achievable if parties can build on these earlier achievements (Menon, 2004). For instance, considering the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Islamic Republic has made positive gestures in a couple of times, especially when negotiating with friendly or neutral nations such as Turkey and Brazil. An example of these gestures is the May 17, 2010 Agreement, under which the Islamic Republic of Iran agreed to send 1.2 tons of its low enriched uranium stockpile to Turkey, and in return receive 120 kilograms of uranium fuel. Despite the achievement of such a, the United States and NATO allies ignored the agreement and approved tougher economic sanctions on Iran. Similarly, North Korea makes positive moves while negotiating with allies such as China and Russia, but changes tone whenever talks are commenced under duress. These instances indicate the importance of trust and democracy in instituting mutually beneficial disarmament talks.

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