Developing an Analytical Framework for Genetic Warfare Policy

96 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009

See all articles by R.E. Burnett

R.E. Burnett

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2009


Within the general notion of biological WMDs is a weapon that has been least discussed - the potential genetic weapon. Technologies that have been evolving from basic research into the molecular biology of genes and DNA/RNA are now providing us with the knowledge necessary to create new kinds of weapons that pose a strategic dilemma for the United States and its allies. This project will investigate the strategic environment of genetic warfare - notably the notion of the human adaptation of natural disease events as applied to state and non-state conduct in the contest for political and economic power and influence. Specifically, we seek to augment the security literature with regard to the conceptualization of the strategy which will hopefully provide deterrence and, if necessary, a successful defense against genetic weapons. To accomplish this task, we must integrate the historical and current strategic doctrine of biological WMDs in American doctrine and thinking, and the evolving literature in genetic science and epidemiology. An important finding in this analysis will be the growing importance of genetic forensic epidemiology is becoming a principle national security tool . 
Furthermore, it will be established that the preeminent threat of biological warfare in the future - a more rational and lethal form of disease - one that threatens to nullify our decades old disease therapy model of vaccine development and deployment - is slowly leading futurist thinkers to resurrect Eugenics as a new model of science-based national security. Specifically - the argument will made that human enhancement may be the only path toward a protected human population in a future world of radically new diseases. Genetically enhanced pathogens - once posited - deconstructed - and placed within a genetic and political construct - can be combined with the growing logic of eugenics as suggested by Dr. James Watson, Dr. Francis Crick, and other aggressive utilitarian-oriented scientist/engineers who are leading these fields today. The genetically enhanced pathogen can only be resisted and/or defeated by the genetically enhanced human being. This sentence portrays the logic of a potential eugenics future - one that continues to arise from the combination of advancing genetic science and technology to the task of terrorism, warfare, and weaponology. To this logic - we will seek to establish a formal ethical analysis and conclusion for the policy and scholarly community.
 It is important to note that most of the thinking on biological war in the unclassified literature to date has occurred in the medical community. There is advantage to this in that our medical scientists and physicians are the ones who will provide the basic research needed to generate technological solutions to such weapons. Therefore, the research that we seek to conduct in this project is of clear importance. The task of this research is to integrate the knowledge of how to defend against a range of international and national actors from the security literature with the knowledge from the medical and biological literature of how genetic weapons will work for/against those actors and the United States. In this sense, the outcome of this research will be to establish a dialogue on the strategic environment of genetic warfare informed by the knowledge and corresponding technologies of molecular biology. What is possible regarding the creation and use of genetic weapons will help to determine the corresponding political, economic, and technological strategies for defending against them. Too - the ethical dimension of human genetic enhancement - as the direct operational juxtaposition to the empirical record of scientific work on pathogen genetic enhancement - causes us to write a formal statement about the specter of a renewed call for some form of eugenics - this time as a response to the need for the state to provide for the genetic security of the American population.

Suggested Citation

Burnett, R.E., Developing an Analytical Framework for Genetic Warfare Policy (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

R.E. Burnett (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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