Loading...

POLSC313: US Intelligence and National Security

Unit 6: The Impact of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons on US Security   For nearly five decades following World War II, the threat of nuclear war with the USSR and/or China was considered to be the highest risk and greatest danger to US national security. Massive build-ups of nuclear weapons by the superpowers were believed to provide the best defense, either through deterrence or mutually assured destruction (MAD). Deterrence and MAD strategies were premised on the belief that the knowledge of imminent and massive retaliation would keep other states in check and prevent attacks. During the Reagan Administration, development of weapons to shoot down missiles, fired either intentionally or errantly, began. This marked a substantive shift in US strategic thinking from a reactive to a more proactive posture.
 
The dissolution of the USSR and the thaw in relations with China, to the extent that China is now the largest foreign holder of US government securities, makes the risk of nuclear war with either Russia or China less likely. Russia and the US have both destroyed large numbers of nuclear warheads and strategic delivery systems since the end of the Cold War. During the administration of President George W. Bush, deployment of anti-ballistic weapons systems along the coasts of the US, as well as abroad, was implemented primarily to protect the homeland in the event of an accidental launch.
 
The biggest perceived threat from strategic nuclear weapons to US national security is that posed by unstable regimes in Central Asia, such as Pakistan, or North Korea. The risk of so-called dirty bombs, biological weapons, or small tactical nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups is also a significant threat. While these smaller nuclear, biological, or radiological weapons would not impose the same number of immediate casualties and mass destruction as would a strategic weapon, the impact of such a weapon would have far-reaching consequences for commerce and security, much as did the events of 9/11. 
 
Biological weapons have a much lower production cost than do nuclear, radiological, or atomic weapons and can be fashioned from materials and substances that are more readily available. The means of disseminating biological pathogens are also far more varied, consisting of everything from aerosol sprays to mortars to contamination of food, water, soil, air, or medicine. Effective strength and range of biological weapons varies, depending on concentration, dilution, dissipation, age, weather, etc. Vaccinations have been and are being developed to help protect against the pathogens contained in biological weapons, but the possible varieties used in these weapons make total prevention of harm impossible.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 14.25 hours.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 4.75 hours

    ☐    Reading: 2 hours

    ☐    Lecture: 2 hours

    ☐    Web Media: 0.75 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 3.25 hours 

☐    Unit 6 Activity: 3 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- evaluate the likelihood and magnitude of risk to US national security presented by nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons;
  - assess the successes and failures of policies aimed at non-proliferation; and
  - explain strategies for protection against nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons on both the strategic and tactical levels.

6.1 Threats to US National Security Caused by Nuclear Warfare   - Reading: Harvard University: Ashton B. Carter et al.’s “The Day After: Action in the 24 Hours Following a Nuclear Blast in an American City” Link: Harvard University: Ashton B. Carter et al.’s “The Day After: Action in the 24 Hours Following a Nuclear Blast in an American City” (PDF)
 
Instructions: At the end of the introductory text, click on the hyperlink after “Please see the PDF below for the full text of this article” to download the report. Read this report, which discusses the impact that a nuclear attack could have in the US.

 Reading this report should take approximately 1 hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Harvard University: Ashton B. Carter et al.’s “Reducing Nuclear Threats and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” Link: Harvard University: Ashton B. Carter et al.’s “Reducing Nuclear Threats and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down the webpage and click on the hyperlink “Reducing Nuclear Threats –FINAL. PDF” to download the report. Read this report, which discusses the current state of the nuclear threat to the US and strategies for minimizing the risk of either a conventional or non-conventional nuclear attack.

    Reading this report should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: iTunes U: MIT: Dr. Joseph Cirincione’s “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons” Link: iTunes U: MIT: Dr. Joseph Cirincione’s “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Click on “View in iTunes” for the lecture titled “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.” Watch Dr. Cirincione’s video lecture on the future of nuclear technologies.

    Watching this video lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 2 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Hoover Institution’s “An American Hiroshima: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” Link: YouTube: The Hoover Institution’s “An American Hiroshima: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the video of a panel discussion on preventing nuclear terrorist attacks in the US.

    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2 Threats to US National Security Caused by Biological Warfare   - Reading: Federation of American Scientists: “Introduction to Biological Weapons” Link: Federation of American Scientists: “Introduction to Biological Weapons” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article for an overview of how biological weapons work and the threats that they pose to US national security.

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: GlobalSecurity.org: Ronald J. Ellis’s “Biological Warfare Research: The Means to Counter the Biological Weapon Threat” Link: GlobalSecurity.org: Ronald J. Ellis’s “Biological Warfare Research: The Means to Counter the Biological Weapon Threat” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Ellis’s article, which outlines the history of the use of biological weapons and efforts to counter the threats caused by these types of weapons.

    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Bradford University, 7th International Symposium on Protection against Chemical and Biological Warfare: Dr. Graham S. Pearson’s “Why Biological Weapons Present the Greatest Danger” Link: Bradford University, 7th International Symposium on Protection against Chemical and Biological Warfare: Dr. Graham S. Pearson’s “Why Biological Weapons Present the Greatest Danger” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Locate the article titled “Why Biological Weapons Present the Greatest Danger,” and select the link to download the article. Read this article, which explains the scope and nature of the threat caused by biological weapons.

    Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: YouTube: University of Michigan: Dr. Phil Hamm’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biological Weapons” Link: YouTube: University of Michigan: Dr. Phil Hamm’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Biological Weapons” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video lecture on the history of the use of biological weapons, the threats that they pose to national security, and strategies for detection and prevention of biological warfare.
     
    Watching this video lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 Threats to US National Security Caused by Chemical Warfare   - Reading: Federation of American Scientists: “Chemical Weapons Information” Link: Federation of American Scientists: “Chemical Weapons Information” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on each of the headings under “Chemical Weapons Information” and “Fact Sheets” to get an overview of how chemical weapons work and the threats that they pose to US national security.

 Reading these sections should take approximately 1 hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: DTIC Online: Dana A. Shea’s “Terrorism: Background on Chemical, Biological, and Toxin Weapons and Options for Lessening Their Impact” Link: DTIC Online: Dana A. Shea’s “Terrorism: Background on Chemical, Biological, and Toxin Weapons and Options for Lessening Their Impact” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link after “PDF URL” to download the article by Dana A. Shea. Read this article on terrorism and chemical and biological warfare.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: UCTV: Dr. John Blossom and Dr. Christian Sandrock’s “Disaster Preparedness: Chemical and Biological Agents” Link: UCTV: Dr. John Blossom and Dr. Christian Sandrock’s “Disaster Preparedness: Chemical and Biological Agents” (Flash)  

    Also available in:
    Mp3 audio
    Mp4 video
     
    Instructions: Watch the video on detection and response to chemical and biological agents.
     
    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 6 Activity   - Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC313 Course Discussion Board” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC313 Course Discussion Board”
 
Instructions: After you have studied the material in this unit, consider the following questions. Post your responses to these questions on the course discussion board, and review as well as respond to other students’ posts.
 
1. How can chemical and biological warfare be prevented at strategic and tactical levels?

 2. What are the strongest arguments in favor of and against
expanding the number of nuclear countries?  

 3. Should all countries be able to acquire nuclear power plants as
an energy resource? Why, or why not?  
    
 Completing this activity should take approximately 3 hours.