No weaponry of mass death better demonstrates than does biological weaponry the futility of arms racing and the impossibility ultimately of resolving disputes other than by peaceful means.
Like nuclear weapons, biological weapons cannot realistically be countered by other weapons or by so-called defensive means.Having led out in the development of such weaponry, we and the Soviet Union are now faced with the consequences of our acts.
By selecting murderous means to defend our state, we have helped the world by our own research to possess weaponry that we cannot defend against.
And our own defensive technology presents a greater threat to our own health and safety than it promises as a counter to biological weaponry used against us.
Further, unlike nuclear weaponry, biological weaponry is the poor man's or poor nation's monster weapon. Anthrax, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or one of a dozen plagues can be produced by dozens of states which lack the wealth, or the physics, or the engineering, to produce and deliver nuclear weapons.
Secret open air testing of biological agents, called "simulants" by the military to mislead people into thinking that these biological agents are not themselves organic or harmful, took place across our country from New York's subways to San Francisco, and Dugway, Utah.
These experiments demonstrated one thing which should have been obvious without such testing. Relatively little ingenuity is needed to distribute biological agents through aerosols of diverse design.
No real check exists to stop a terrorist or an enemy state from doing this. The means of such distribution or delivery are simply limitless, through the air, our water supply, or by infected animals or people.
The current proposal to construct a "biological aerosol test facility" at the Dugway Proving Ground, only 70 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, demonstrates once again the deadly dialectic relationship between selecting means of mass death biological weapons and our defense. Even after we have renounced such offensive weaponry by treaty, such technology, furthered by our research, still threatens us.
Like the impossibility of defending against unlimited ways to spread biological organisms against our population, developing vaccines against such weaponry in an age of recombinant DNA seems equally unlikely.
Any number of hybrids could be produced in our age of genetic engineering. Defensive efforts will always be playing a losing game of "catch-up" and we will have a limited number of vaccines to meet a limitless number of biological agents.
In the meantime, we, near Dugway, will be threatened by natural disaster such as earthquake, or terrorist activity, or infection of workers exposed to us all.
I do not believe that our defensive research presents as much hope in defending us against biological weapons as it presents risks of infection to the people of our state and, eventually, to others through our nation.
Nor do I believe that our defensive research can be fundamentally distinguished from research on offensive use of such biological agents.
What we must have for the short-term are agreements, enforced and verified, against any research and development of biological agents as weapons.
Over the long-term even these agreements will be insufficient unless we change our minds, not simply our technology or our law.
Biological weaponry even more than nuclear or chemical weaponry respects no boundaries between Dugway and Salt Lake City; between Salt Lake City and Denver, San Francisco and New York; between the United States, the Soviet Union and all of Europe and Asia.
The deadly scourge of AIDS should teach us this lesson if nothing else can.
In the face of the threat of biological disease it is once again revealed that we are linked inextricably together as human beings.
Such organisms know no boundary based on nationality. Weapons of indiscriminate mass death nuclear, chemical, and especially biological demand equally indiscriminate love as the only antidote.
Bombs will not finally counter bombs, biological agents will not stop gene-spliced agents. Our salvation is in our final perception of our mutual vulnerability and our common humanity.
Technology offers no alternative to the absolute necessity that we change our minds.
(Edwin Firmage is a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Utah. This article was based on testimony given at U.S. Army hearings.)