The Duck of Minerva

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The next attack today


December 7, 2008

Yesterday I was watching Colbert and former Sen. Bob Graham was on, discussing the recently released World At Risk, the report of the WMD commission he co-chaired. The headline of the report (which Graham reiterated in the interview) is to expect an attack using a WMD attack within 5 years, most likely a biological attack.

In Zimbabwe, there is a massive Cholera epidemic, over 60,000 are reported to have come down with the disease, and hundreds have already died, with several thousand potential deaths expected.

To discuss: How is what’s happening in Zimbabwe any different from a WMD attack?

If a biological weapon was unleashed–anywhere in the world–it would be a major international incident and significant media event. The recent attacks in Mumbai, with less than 200 total dead, have dominated world news.

Now, one can easily rehearse the attack vs. outbreak story, malicious intent vs. breakdown of ‘normal’ conditions, and so on and so forth.

But, the fact remain, this commission, forecasting something that may or may not happen, is garnering modest attention, while an actual outbreak of a biological killer is occurring in the here and now, the effects of which are not all that different from what a real bio-weapon attack might be, merits about as much, maybe less, depending on what you’re watching.

It is yet another example of what Steve Smith was talking about in his ISA Presidential Address. If you haven’t read (or re-read) Smith’s charge to the profession recently, you probably should.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.