Free «Final Assignment: WMD-Related Terrorism» Essay

Final Assignment: WMD-Related Terrorism

Terrorism has become one of the most dangerous phenomena in the recent times. Terrorist attacks often result in numerous victims, destruction of material and spiritual values, and the development of hatred among nations. The roots of terrorism dig quite deep and are difficult to detect and neutralize. Originating as a resistance movement against oppression, it has become a method of intimidation, pressure on certain structures of the government and sectors of society in order to implement the criminal in nature designs. The significance of the problem at hand has increased even more due to the fact that many extremist organizations have gained access to the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), making them capable of dealing an enormous damage to the global society. The following work focuses on several aspects of WMD-related terrorism, including the possibility of use of WMD, the potential effects of the attacks, and the ways of preventing them.

The Possibility of the Use of WMD by the Terrorists

The possibility of terrorists using WMD in the course of their attacks depends on a number of factors. First of all, it is the availability of the respective components required for its manufacturing, such as the radioactive substances and bacterial strains. The first ones can be obtained through theft or illegal trade. At the same time, today the likelihood of manufacturing of a nuclear bomb from the stolen materials is negligible – in more than a decade, the criminals have managed to steal and sell no more than 2% of the amount of uranium and plutonium required to make a nuclear warhead (Muller, 2016). However, such statistics are worrisome, because there is always a danger that some terrorists may be more successful than the others. In addition, even a small amount of radioactive material is enough to make the so-called dirty bomb. Yet, bacterial strains and precursors (i.e. the components of chemical weapons) are easier to obtain as the control over their movement is not as strict (Muller, 2016). In this regard, the possibility of using WMD, namely the biological and chemical, is rather high.

The next aspect to consider is the availability of knowledge and technology necessary to create WMD. The development and manufacturing of such weaponry is a complex technological process, which is difficult to carry out in the makeshift conditions. Thus, small groups of extremists will not be able to afford the use of WMD during their operations. On the other hand, terrorists that have reliable sources of funding (oil, drugs, etc.) are likely to make an attempt to organize the so-called brain drain, thus being on the verge of creating WMDs. In particular, they may recruit chemists, physicists, and programmers into their ranks – the professionals that are capable of making lethal weapons from simple elements. In turn, their next step could be the attack using biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons, including the improvised explosive devices containing hazardous substances. In the regard, hundreds of unemployed scientists and specialists which can sell their knowledge and skill to many organizations, including the terroristic ones, contribute to the high possibility of the use of WMD.

The final factor is the willingness of the terrorists to use WMD. In the case of extremist groups such as ISIS, the component in question can be definitive, as it affects the two previous points. Specifically, after a series of bloody terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Iraq, and Ankara, the militants have warned the global society of large-scale operations. Such fact makes it possible to suggest that terrorists might be planning to use WMDs that are banned worldwide. Moreover, it is noteworthy that their income from the sale of natural resources may be used to recruit experts in the fields of chemistry, physics, and computer science, to develop deadly weapons of the available materials, the report said. Still, under the conditions of limited financial resources, the terrorists will be likely to use WMD agents that are relatively easy to obtain and smuggle to the target location, meaning they will apply substances like sarin, ricin or anthrax spores (Yambert, 2016). By taking into account all these facts, it is possible to say that the chance of the extremists using WMD during their next attacks is rather high. More specifically, they can obtain the necessary components for its manufacturing, attract the people possessing the requires knowledge and skills, and, most importantly, are willing to do so. Correspondingly,  the global society must focus on the development of the proactive measures aimed at the prevention of the worst-case scenario.

Sarin as a Chemical WMD Agent

Sarin is a kind of chemical WMD that was originally produced for the military purposes and used in several armed conflicts (Ledgard, 2006). Notably, in the case of terrorist attack, the civilians are likely to be the primary target due to the fact that it is much easier to approach than the officials or the members of the military. Thus, it is possible to determine the effects of sarin (physiological and psychological) on the provided population. The physiological effect of this agent involves the influence on the critical functions of the neural system. To be more exact, it blocks the enzymes affecting its activity, leading to disastrous consequences. The nerves, which are usually switched on and off to control the body muscles, can no longer be disabled. Respectively, they are constantly under tension, resulting in the emergence of such symptoms as cloudy vision, an increased salivation, and vomiting (Roman, Lukey, & Salem, 2008), which is enough to make the victims fell anxious.

However, further exposure to sarin results in the development of deadly symptoms. Specifically, the breathing of a person becomes labored, shallow, and uneven. Being unable to control their muscles, the people begin to experience seizures. The lungs start secreting a fluid, and when people try to breathe, their mouths become covered in foam, which is often tinged with blood and has a pink color, adding to the terrifying effect. A lethal dose of sarin encompasses only a few drops, and, in the period from one to ten minutes, a person dies. In case someone manages to survive for the first twenty minutes after the sarin attack, there is a chance that such people will stay alive. It should be noted that sarin evaporates rather quickly, turning into a gas that has no smell, taste or color, so people learn about its application only when the first victims begin to die (Romano et al., 2008). Therefore, it is clear that sarin has a devastating effect on the civilians due to the fact that they cannot detect it and usually do not have any means of protection from it. In turn, a single attack that involves the use of the agent under review may claim the lives of several dozens of people.

Furthermore, sarin can have a powerful psychological effect on the target population. The clinical picture of poisoning described above is likely to terrify those near the victims, which, in combination with the sudden nature of the attack, will have a significant impact on the survivors, resulting in the development of the traumatic stress. Consecutively, the entire life of the affected people will be split into the two parts (i.e. before and after the attack). Hence, the formation of a new way of life is likely to cause an acute sense of injustice in victims, largely due to the memories of the idealized events of the past. Various areas of their relationship with the others will be redefined as a result of cognitive processing of traumatic experiences, including the family ones, which will be presented as unjust realities of the everyday life. The feelings of irritation and annoyance from the violation of the usual way of life and communication style will affect the perception of the people that survived the attack. Respectively, they will form an atmosphere of tension and misunderstanding around them, resulting in an increase in the number of quarrels and conflicts (Sinclair & Antonius, 2012). Naturally, such state of events does not contribute to the integrity of the society, attracting the attention of the various governmental structures, and, most importantly, making the country more susceptible to the following attacks.

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The Protection from Agro-Terrorism

Agro-terrorism is a criminal activity involving the use of chemical or biological weapons against the enterprises of agriculture or the food industry. The raid on the fields and farms are much easier to carry out than those on the military bases and government buildings while the damage from them can be immeasurable. Chiefly, the sixth part of the gross domestic product of the U.S., as well as the eighth part of the jobs in the country, is linked to the agricultural sector. Accordingly, in the case the terrorists attack it, the U.S. economy will lose up to $30 billion. Given the imminent fall of agricultural products in exports, the loss could rise up to $140 billion (Ollington, 2008). All the above-described facts make it clear that it is necessary to take the proactive measures, i.e. the ones that aimed at the prevention of attacks rather than at the response to their consequences.

In this regard, the best way to protect from agro-terrorism is to resort to the so-called concept of an opportunity. It is a relatively new tactic of confrontation of the extremist organizations. Theoretically, terrorists carry out their attacks after weighing the pros and cons of such activity and coming to the conclusion that benefits from them will cover the respective costs. Subsequently, carrying out such an operation involves the work of the four key factors. The first of them is a certain kind of effort and expense required to prepare an attack. Next, there is an initial risk for the terrorists, which is associated with the implementation of operations (i.e. injuries or death). The third factor involves the benefit from the implementation of an agro-terroristic operation. Finally, there are the reasons that led to the organization of attack (Pitchel, 2011). These aspects define whether the agricultural sector of the country will be assaulted.

Therefore, in case the gain from the act of agro-terrorism exceeds its costs, the likelihood of the use of chemical or biological weapons against the enterprises of agriculture or the food industry increases significantly. Likewise, the change in the cost – benefit ratio can reduce the possibility of the attack while the elimination of the motives of the various factions to carry out their operations can be considered an efficient measure. Correspondingly, the governmental activity aimed at the prohibition of the spread of the components of chemical and biological weapons (tightening the control over their transportation, increasing the defense of the country’s borders, etc.) will create significant barriers (both physical and financial) for the terrorists (Stopa & Orahovec, 2004). Thus, an increase in costs related to the implementation of the acts of agro-terrorism will make these people less willing to use the described types of weapons.

It should be noted that the problem of biological and cheemical warfare has become especially acute nowadays, thus increasing the risks of the use of the respective WMDs on the agricultural sector. Therefore, the creation of powerful obstacles, even for the most unlikely threats, is the most effective way to combat this scourge as it all comes down to the willingness of terrorists to carry out their plans. Nevertheless, the problem of agro-terrorism cannot be perceived as a temporary one, which means that the security of the nation must be improved on the constant basis. In fact, the fundamental question of solving various crises comes down to their rapid and efficient solution (Pitchel, 2011). A clear and thorough control by the relevant authorities guarantees the reduced likelihood of a disaster. However, in the case the government does not have the appropriate methods in its arsenal and tends to take inadequate and belated action, the existing proactive tactics can produce the opposite effect.

Sarin Attack: Threat Assessment

In their activities, thugs may use a wide array of approaches to their tasks. Yet, by considering that their primary goal is to strike fear in the minds of the people, it is safe to assume that the attack on the civilians is the most likely scenario. In turn, this fact somewhat narrows the list of the WMD agents to be used against them. As it was mentioned before, the extremist organizations operate in the conditions of limited financial resources, meaning that they are likely to use WMD agents that are relatively easy to obtain and produce, such as sarin (Muller, 2016). Hereof, it is required to assess the threats of sarin attack against the civilians as the insufficient attention to this problem can lead to inefficient solutions on the part of the government, and, in most cases, will have irreparable consequences for the society as a whole.

First of all, it is possible to assess the risk of occurrence of a terrorist attack involving the use of sarin. As noted above, sarin is relatively easy to produce. Still, it should be noted that it belongs to a group of non-persistent chemical agents. In particular, the drip-resistant liquid form of sarin can be stored only for a few days. Additionally, its term life can be greatly shortened in the presence of impurities that are caused by some chemical reagents (Romano et al., 2008). Taking into account that the terrorists are likely to produce sarin in the makeshift conditions, it is safe to assume that they will be unable to store it for a long time. In turn, the places that are located close to their bases can be considered the high-risk zones.

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The next threat presented by sarin attack is related to the place that is most likely to be selected as a target and is defined by the properties of the substance. As indicated previously, sarin turns into gas rather quickly, which means that it can be blown away by the gust of wind, thus reducing the effect of the attack. Correspondingly, the closed buildings and structures that attract many people are likely to be the primary targets of the extremist. In such context, the malls and subway stations, especially during the weekends, holidays, and rush hours have the highest level of threat (Muller, 2016). At the same time, the attack is to be carried out at the center of a crowd, which means that the terrorists will have to infiltrate the locations described above. Subsequently, the level of security of a building or structure plays an important role in defining the level of threat. Naturally, a poorly guarded location has more chances of being attacked by the extremists.

Lastly, in the course of the analysis of the threats presented by sarin attack, it is necessary to take into the willingness of the initiators of the operation to carry it out. On the one hand, the reluctance of terrorists to use a dangerous chemical weapon reduces the risks of attack, which is especially true for the smaller groups then make every member count. On the other hand, though, the largest and the most dangerous extremist organizations would not have refused to get their hands on such means of warfare and use them to sow terror and kill people (Muller, 2016). Thus, in the case of sarin attack, the buildings and structures that are located close to the terrorists’ bases, attract many people, and are poorly guarded, are the most likely to be targeted. By the same token, the level of threat increases in the case the terrorist group is relatively large, has a specific ideology, and possesses significant resources.


The problem of terrorism, which has been relevant at all times, has become especially significant nowadays, with the extremists getting their hands on the various types of WMD. Accordingly, the chances of the use of chemical or biological weapons in the course of the future attacks are relatively high. Furthermore, such turn of events will result not only in the death of many people but also shake the very foundations of the targeted society, making it weaker and more susceptible to the following strikes. At the same time, terrorists are still restricted in the choice of methods of the attack due to the need to obtain and smuggle the required components of WMD. Hence, it is possible to say that a tight control over the movement of such materials, as well as the creation of the artificial barriers for the extremists, is to become the core of the global proactive measures taken by the authorities. Besides, a comprehensive assessment of threats presented by certain WMD agents will allow defining the time and place of the attacks in advance, providing an opportunity to prevent the worst-case scenario.

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