Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons can cause mass killing of people. The desire to create widespread panic and cause mass fatalities motivates terrorists to use CBRN weapons. While there is evidence that terrorist groups such as ISIS have attempted and used CBRN weapons in different parts of the world, they are less likely to acquire and use them in the United States and foreign countries.
ISIS has been reported to have used CBRN materials in its operations in Syria and Iraq. According to Giorgidze and Wither (2019), this terrorist group used chemical weapons in more than thirty-seven attacks between 2014 and 2016. ISIS has also been showing significant interest in nuclear, radiological, and biological weapons. Psychological impacts to the targeted societies, theological, political, and operational factors motivate terrorists to use CBRN weapons.. However, the group has been unsuccessful like other sub-state actors in deploying these weapons for various reasons.
Effective state policies to thwart CBRN attacks are the main reason why terrorist groups have been unsuccessful in using these weapons in most countries. The policies include impeding terrorists’ ability to acquire funds, coordinate their activities, and communicate, minimizing their success chances. Satisfaction achieved through conventional tactics and means such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and firearms reduce the incentive for the terrorist groups to overcome challenges associated with acquiring, weaponizing, and delivering CBRN materials (Giorgidze & Wither, 2019). Moreover, some terrorist groups may be unwilling to execute attacks that cause mass casualties due to the possibility of deterring recruitment and fundraising processes. Further, most terrorists are incapable of developing and deploying CBRN weapons due to inadequate knowledge and resources. Nations should be adequately prepared to combat CBRN weapon attacks.
W2: CBRN Overview, Tularemia as a Potential Biological Weapon
Tularemia is a bacterial infectious disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The illness is one of the most communicable pathogenic bacteria caused by Francisella tularensis. The latter infects people through the mucous membrane, skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, humans acquire the disease when directly exposed to infected animals or bitten by a deer fly, ticks, and other biting insects. Once it infects individuals, the organs affected by tularemia include lungs, liver, kidney, lymph nodes, pleura, and spleen (Kaye, 2020). F. tularensis multiplies locally after entering the body, causes tissue necrosis, spreads to the lymph nodes and then to other organs through the bloodstream.
The disease’s incubation period is between three to six days, after which onset of tularemia causes acute fever and generalized aches on the portal of entry. Tissue reactions to the infection lead to suppurative necrosis that comprises polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Inhalation exposure causes airways hemorrhagic inflammation (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Additionally, infected individuals may experience progressive weakness, malaise, weight loss, and sweats.
The weapon is accessible since F. tularensis is common among rodents and other mammals. The advancement in technology can facilitate large-scale production and aerosolization of the bacteria in laboratories. The consequences of terrorist attacks using tularemia as a biological weapon would be devastating. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), 1409 cases and 20 deaths were reported between 1985 and 1995. Therefore, using tularemia as a bioweapon can cause many infections and a large number of fatalities. Additionally, the economy would be adversely affected due to the reduced productivity of the affected population.
W3: Chemical Weapons and Threats
Chemical attacks conducted by Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese terrorist group, or by the Syrian government impacted the United States’ counterterrorism preparedness against the chemical weapon. The incidents triggered the government to develop more enhanced policies to prevent any terrorist. The country developed science-based guidance for responding to chemical attacks and published it. According to Butler (2019), the increased terrorists’ threats and utilization of chemical weapons in Syria increased the awareness of the necessity to have upgraded readiness to respond to such attacks. The new guidelines provided by the government are to facilitate swift decontamination of most people in case of a chemical attack.
According to the guidelines, emergency responders must instruct victims of chemical attacks to quickly undress all their clothes and wipe themselves dry using supplied absorbent materials. Butler (2019) indicates that the properly executed dry decontamination strategy eliminates approximately 99 % of chemicals from the skin. This move by the United States focuses on ensuring that any successful chemical attack does not harm its citizens.
The government has also developed an application called ASPIRE, which helps emergency responders determine appropriate decontamination strategies depending on the chemical involved in the attack. The app can forecast how much chemical attack incident can cause skin contamination. Butler (2019) notes that that app is based on study about how varying doses of diverse chemicals quickly evaporate from artificial skin. The recent Russian government’s chemical attack against its former spy in the UK will also impact the United States’ preparedness against chemical weapons since the incident poses a significant threat to the country. The United States must be prepared to respond to nerve agents such as the one used by the Russian government in the assignation.
W4: Biological Weapons and Threats Plague As a Biological Weapon
Plague can be used as a biological weapon to harm and kill people and cause economic and social instability in the targeted country. A plague is an infectious illness with the potential of causing severe sickness in people (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). While the bacteria that cause plaque, Yersinia pestis, get to people when they handle infected animals or are bitten by an infected flea, it can be used as a biological weapon to sicken people. Terrorist groups can use Y. pestis as a bioweapon by releasing it in populated cities or areas. This bacterium is available in nature in most parts of the world. It is possible to grow Y. pestis in a laboratory and release it into the air.
Terrorists can use Y. pestis in an aerosol attack by releasing droplets or tiny particles containing the bacterium. Once people inhale it, they develop pneumonic plague, a serious lung infection. Infected individuals can spread the disease to others through close contact (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). The condition would cause severe illness and, in worst cases, death if not promptly treated. Notably, advanced knowledge and technology are required to weaponize the bacterium. While the government is prepared for the bioterrorist attack using Y. pestis, the medical and public health community’s ability to respond to such an outbreak, it would be challenging to respond to the plague effectively. There is a shortage of healthcare professionals, of whom most of them may not be well acquainted with the signs and symptoms of the disease and how to contain its spreading.
Agroterrorism is a significant national security threat in the United States, like in any other country in the world. This kind of terrorism is a subset of bioterrorism, which involves the thoughtful introduction of plant or animal diseases to cause economic damage, fear, and social instability (Haley, 2019). Execution of the agroterrorism act in the United States would have potential adverse impacts on the country’s agricultural sector and the economy. The possible consequences of agroterrorism include the suffering of animals, loss of valuable crops and animals, decreased food production, and disruption of the livestock industry. Introducing pathogens to crops and animals can cause an outbreak of diseases that might be challenging to control due to the population affected. Suffering and death of animals as the destruction of crops may be inevitable when the government controls the diseases.
Agroterrorism can considerably hurt the country’s economy due to lost trade, unemployment, and the cost of containing diseases and carcass disposal. Countries importing agricultural products from the United States would stop doing so until the outbreak is ending. A significant number of individuals employed in the agricultural sector and other businesses that depend on agricultural products would lose their jobs, reducing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many resources would be diverted from different economic sectors to control diseases, further slowing economic growth.
Agroterrorism is a subset of biological terrorism with a significant threat in the United States since it can cause health problems and death to the citizens. If individuals eat contaminated animal products or crops, they can get ill and die if they are not treated. Agroterrorism is most likely to occur at the producers and primary consumers levels of the food chain. In such a case, the act would hurt the entire food chain, hurting people and the economy.
Butler, D. (2019). US adopts science-based guidance for chemical-attack response. Nature.com. Web.
Giorgidze, L., & Wither, J. (2019). Horror or hype: The challenge of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism. Marshallcenter.org. Web.
Haley, M. (2019). Fields of danger: The looming threat of agroterrorism on the united states’ agriculture. Journal of Biosecurity, Biosafety, And Biodefense Law, 10(1), 1-10. Web.
Kaye, D. (2020). Tularemia, aka ‘rabbit fever’: A rare disease and potential bioweapon. Healio.com. Web.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Abstract: “Consensus Statement: Tularemia as a Biological Weapon: Medical and Public Health Management”. Web.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Bioterrorism | Plague | CDC. Cdc.gov. Web.