The Democratization of Arms
Among scholars of terrorism and international affairs, one of the most frightening trends today is what’s known as the “democratization of arms.” Simply put, it means that individuals or small groups increasingly have the opportunity to build or obtain weapons of mass destruction.
As information technology spreads and science expands, a disgruntled loner has ever more means to create explosives with greater destructive power or chemicals with a more destructive reach. Science fact is rapidly surpassing science fiction. Gene splicing can now be done in the garage, creating the threat of the next major plague being hatched right down the block. The blueprints for a radioactive dirty bomb are quite simple. Obtaining the material to build one is only a slightly greater problem.
“The rapid pace of technological progression, as well as its ongoing diffusion, offer clues as to some of the likely next big things in warfare,” Andrew Krepinevich writings in this month’s Foreign Policy magazine. “Indeed, important military shifts have already been set in motion that will be difficult if not impossible to reverse. Sadly, these developments, combined with others in the economic, geopolitical, and demographic realms, seem likely to make the world a less stable and more dangerous place.”
Among the more frightening trends in weaponry is the rapidly advancing field of biological weapons. Indeed, in the coming years some experts fear they’ll see the emergence of “genetic bombs” – weapons that are designed to kill members of a specific race or ethnic group by targeting certain genetic markers.
“The very advances in biotechnology that appear to offer such promise for improving the human condition have the potential to inflict incalculable suffering. For example, ‘designer’ pathogens targeting specific human subgroups or designed to overcome conventional antibiotics and antiviral countermeasures now appear increasingly plausible, giving scientists a power once thought to be the province of science fiction,” Krepinevich writes. “As in the cyber realm, such advances will rapidly increase the potential destructive power of small groups, a phenomenon that might be characterized as the ‘democratization of destruction.’
On Sept. 11th, we at the Bob Graham Center will be hosting a discussion on the threat of biological terrorism. Graham Center students spent the summer interviewing local emergency officials in counties throughout the Sunshine State. They’ll be presenting their findings. Some may startle you.