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Analysis of WMD Proliferation—The Need for Greater Multidisciplinary, Sociotechnical Analysis: The Bioweapons Case

Analysis of WMD Proliferation—The Need for Greater Multidisciplinary, Sociotechnical Analysis: The Bioweapons Case

Kathleen M. Vogel, PhD©

Such perspectives reflect the concern since 9/11 that new scientific developments and the globalization and diffusion of biotechnology have given terrorists or hostile states an expanded store of weapons to use against the United States and its allies. Such threats should raise concerns, but scholars who study the development and diffusion of science and technology can’t help but see in the public treatment of potential bioweapons threats the need for greater discussion of fundamental analytic issues concerning these threats. For example:

  • How exactly do advances in the life sciences and biotechnology affect the nature of the bioweapons threat in coming years?
  • What specific knowledge, skills, conditions, resources, and time scales enable the development of new biotechnologies and their weaponization?
  • Moving from the global to the local, how can we better assess the ways in which a diverse set of actors may develop and use biotechnologies for harm?

To date, much is still not known about the fundamental drivers of emerging biotechnology and bioweapons threats, how they apply to specific actors and cases, and how these drivers are changing over time. Additional analytic challenges stem from the complexity of biological systems and the difficulty in predicting how innovations and discoveries in the life sciences and related technologies can be controlled and harnessed for misuse—and how, and to what extent, this is a different problem than that posed by older bioweapons threats. Until these fundamental issues are examined in depth, intelligence analysts will face blind spots in their bioweapons assessments, which may lead to future intelligence failures and poor national and international security policymaking.

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Posted: Dec 19, 2013 08:56 AM
Last Updated: Dec 19, 2013 08:56 AM