BRIEFER: Common Misconceptions About Biological Weapons

By Chris Bakerlee, Steph Guerra, Christine Parthemore, Damien Soghoian, and Jacob Swett

The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a loud wake-up call to the systemic and strategic effects of biological threats. If not rapidly detected and addressed, infectious diseases can in short order infect millions, kill hundreds of thousands or more, depress economies, and heighten tensions among nations. Institutions and systems established for response and resilience to such threats can be stretched to the point of failure, leaving affected societies even more vulnerable.

This experience is driving both policy makers and the general public to pay more attention to the threats posed by the deliberate use of diseases as weapons. This discourse is bringing to light several unfortunate misconceptions about biological weapons. These include misperceptions that biological weapons programs would be irrational, that they would not serve as attractive weapons given the risks involved, and that the world has institutions and processes strong enough to effectively deter, uncover, and eliminate biological weapons programs.

If such misconceptions persist, the international community will be left ill-prepared and vulnerable to this threat, with potentially-catastrophic consequences. This paper therefore seeks to highlight and address points of confusion regarding the character of biological weapons threats.

Read the full briefer here.


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