A major goal of this book is to help readers understand the relevance of the historical restraints placed on the use of biological weapons for today's world. The last three chapters serve as an excellent introduction to the problems biological weapons pose for contemporary policymakers and public officials, particularly in the United States. How can we best deter the use of such weapons? What are the resulting policies of the Department of Homeland Security? How can we constrain proliferation? Jeanne Guillemin wisely points out that these are vitally important questions for all Americans to consider and investigate. Public awareness through education can help calm fears in today's tension-filled climate and prepare the nation for preventive action against the possibility of an attack.
Having published a similarly squared-away study of the 1979 anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1999, MIT security studies fellow Guillemin returns with a compact and balanced history of biological weaponry, beginning with the British, American and Japanese programs that predate WWII. British and American programs continued through much of the Cold War; seeking strategic effectiveness but succeeding only indifferently, they were phased out. But the Soviet programs flourished and, when abolished in the 1990s, they left behind much of the resources in expertise and in some cases actual stockpiles now available to terrorists. Not that bioterrorism is necessarily the menace that media sensationalism makes it out to be, provided that responsible decisions influenced by common sense are made to prepare for it. Guillemin outlines such common sense programs in valuable detail, although she appears to underestimate the extent to which some of them will require international controls over basic scientific research and the amount of resistance this could meet from governments and scientists. Admirably free of finger-pointing, shrillness and Luddite tendencies, the book ranks high as a historical introduction to the subject and a handbook on contemporary remedies; in the latter role, it is superior to Daniel Barenblatt's A Plague Upon Humanity. Author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.