War Under the Microscope: Biological Weapons and the Just War Tradition




Sexton, Bridget

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Though biological weapons have been used for thousands of years, advancements in science and technology have revolutionized the biological threat landscape. Scientists can manipulate and engineer pathogens in ways that were previously unimaginable, making bioweapons an attractive option for both state and non-state bad actors. Despite the legal and ethical prohibitions against biological weapons, state-sponsored bioweapons programs have continued to proliferate, and the threat from lone-wolf bioterrorists continues to rise. In this thesis, I point to three primary reasons why the current prohibitions have failed to deter the development and use of bioweapons. First, I argue that the ethical and legal prohibitions against bioweapons are outdated because of recent technological and scientific advances. Second, there are virtually no means of verification which makes catching violations nearly impossible. Finally, there are no mechanisms to facilitate the enforcement of the prohibitions or to hold violators accountable. In light of the claim that the current frameworks are insufficient, I propose to turn to the just war tradition to guide future regulations and policies.



Biological Weapons., Just War Tradition., Bioweapons., Biodefense., International Law and Ethics.