Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Authored by: Steven P. Lee

The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations

Print publication date:  September  2009
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754671015
eBook ISBN: 9781315612935
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043546


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The use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in warfare is not new, and may be as old as warfare itself. Historical evidence suggests that the use of biological weapons may be at least 3,300 years old. Ancient texts have recently provided evidence that in the Middle East around 1320 BCE the Hittites sent rams infected with the bacterial disease tularemia (rabbit fever) to their enemies, the Arzawans, after which an outbreak of tularemia ravaged the Arzawan community. Although the evidence of intentionality is not completely clear, one may reasonably speculate that the Hittites released the rams to the Arzawans in order to infect them (Khamsi 2007). If so, this would be the earliest documented use of biological weapons in war.

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