Nonnuclear WMDs

Terrorist attacks are a rising danger across the world, and these terrorists seek to use Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to perpetrate their attacks. Weapons of Mass Destruction are nuclear, chemical, or biological devices that are intended to cause harm to a substantial number of people. Organizations such as NATO and the Department of Homeland Security actively work to reduce the threats of WMDs and ensure the safety of citizens.  

Biological Weapons

Biological weapons propagate toxins, disease-causing, and/or infected organisms to harm and kill humans and other living beings. They can generate widespread illness, disastrous economic loss, environmental destruction, and massive food shortages along with the tragic loss of lives. Diseases that are released due to these weapons cannot be contained by governments as the spread of the biological agents could spread like wildfire around the world.   

Chemical Weapons:  

A chemical weapon is a substance with hazardous qualities that is used to cause deliberate death or harm. Chemical weapons include munitions, gadgets, and other equipment created particularly to weaponize poisonous chemicals.1 


One justification for developing WMDs is the fear that one’s enemies have already armed themselves with such weapons. Historically, such fears have been based on political agendas backed by poor intelligence. Examples include:   

  • France developed biological weapons in response to suspicious German activity after WWI (Germany was engaged in an arms buildup, but only of conventional weapons, and ironically, Hitler despised biological weapons)   
  • America’s invasion of Iraq in search of WMDs (none were found)   
  • Canadian Nobel Laureate Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin, became convinced that those in charge of the German army were cruel enough to develop and utilize biological weapons, and Britain should prepare for defense and counterattacks.2  
  • Even as early as 1944, US army intelligence believed the Imperial Japanese Army had established a superior biological warfare program and that intelligence about it should be kept hidden from the Soviet Union  


From the ancient practice of poisoning an enemy’s wells and throwing plague-infected bodies over the walls of besieged cities, to the horrifying use of germ warfare during WWII in Asia, or the use of nerve gases in the Iran-Iraq War, infectious microorganisms and toxic chemicals have been used as weapons to harm or kill humans for millennia. Not only do biological and chemical attacks cause illness and death, but they also cause panic. Their destructive force had been confined to a small area until now.  

On the other hand, new technological breakthroughs are cause for concern. Synthetic biology and genetic engineering have enabled microbes to change their characteristics. The introduction of new genetically modified illnesses, whether intentionally or unintentionally, could result in a pandemic.3  

The use of bioweapons to undermine national agricultural and animal economies poses a severe threat to biodiversity. Not only do bioweapons have direct effects on domesticated plant and animal genetic diversity, but they can also have direct and indirect effects on plant and animal populations. The impacts of using laboratory-cultured bioweapons as well as natural “wild-type” disease organisms as biological weapons inside and among animal populations are the subject of this article. Much of what we have described also pertains to the possible effects of plant bioweapons on wild and cultivated plant species that are not targeted.4  


The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC):  

The convention prohibits signees from producing, transporting, stockpiling, or using any biological or toxic weapons. This was the first treaty banning several nations from an entire class of WMDs. The convention’s 183 signatories indicate strong and universal anti-biological weapon norms.   

The Geneva Protocol:   

The signing of the Geneva Protocol in 1925 banned both the use of chemical and biological weapons. At the time, France was the only country that reserved an exception to use the weapons for retaliation against other countries’ militaries.5  

In order to keep ahead of the enemy as terrorism advances, the Department of Homeland Security must also evolve. They examine the US defenses and suggest ways to improve them. For example, they do R&D to develop new equipment for identifying threatening material or weapons.   

The DHS has improved the preventative and response skills of public safety officers across the United States via careful collaboration with officials and agencies of the government. We’ve done this by providing operational partners with training, exercises, and other assistance.   

The Department also seeks to improve the country’s ability to gather and evaluate forensic evidence from WMD attacks to identify the perpetrators.6 

Allstar86, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons 

See page for author, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons 


1 “What Is a Chemical Weapon?” OPCW

2 Guillemin, Jeanne. “Scientists and the History of Biological Weapons. A Brief Historical Overview of the Development of Biological Weapons in the Twentieth Century.” EMBO Reports, Nature Publishing Group, July 2006,

3 “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” The Global Challenges Foundation, 28 Oct. 2019,

4 Academic.oup.com

5 Weapons of Mass Destruction – Unoda – United Nations

6 “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Weapons of Mass Destruction | Homeland Security

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