The advancement of warfare has taken many interesting and destructive twists and turns; however, none of them quite compare to the invention of weapons of mass destruction. WMDs are mostly recognized as nuclear bombs, but the reality is that such weaponry can come in many different forms.
No matter how these weapons are deployed, however, the end is always the same: a massive amount of destruction is left in their wake. Even war has its own sets of rules that are imposed by the international community, and there’s a reason that the use of a WMD is illegal. The goal is more than just fighting. A weapon of mass destruction is designed by its very nature to not only damage a foreign force but to deliver an exorbitant amount of damage to all of those near its payload.
Learn more about these powerful weapons and how they could alter our lives as warfare continues to advance in some of the worst ways possible.
What Exactly Are Weapons of Mass Destruction?
What is WMD? The WMD meaning can get tricky at times. This is because weapons of mass destruction don’t have a formal definition. Again, it’s often thought that a weapon of mass destruction would fall directly in line with a nuclear strike, and while this is true, the category is also much broader.
Although there is no treaty or customary international law containing an authoritative definition of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (NBC) have been widely used as definitions. As opposed to WMD as a whole, international law relates only to specific weapons categories within WMD.
The three major types of WMDs are nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, although some experts argue that radiological materials, as well as missile technology and delivery systems like aircraft and ballistic missiles, could also be classified as WMDs.
Things are further complicated because while ICBMs can be classified as a weapon of mass destruction, so too can more improvised weapons created with the intent of terrorism and widespread destruction. A high-profile example of this was unfortunately seen during the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. The pressure cooker bombs claimed three lives, while at least 264 were injured in the horrific attack.
Advancements in Technology Are Expanding the Definition Further
Biological weapons, chemical warfare, and nuclear weapons are all essential when talking about weapons of mass destruction; however, as technology continues to evolve, so does the way we engage in warfare. Cyber weapons are considered by many to be WMDs, and with each passing day, it’s beginning to get harder and harder to not justify the lack of distinction.
Many are calling for cyber weapons to be considered weapons of mass destruction because of the level of infrastructure that depends on the Internet to provide services for billions of humans across the globe. Those who oppose, however, don’t consider cyber weapons under such classifications because they cannot be used through traditional, direct ways to kill human beings.
WMDs Are an Unfortunate Responsibility
While there are many who wish to see WMDs eliminated altogether, there are many hurdles that make this prospect a difficult one to realize.
Managing these weapons falls heavily on the hands of the United States, as we are the only nation in the world to have officially used nuclear weapons in combat. We are one of the leading world powers, a nuclear state, and capable of creating and maintaining multiple WMDs.
Disarmament becomes difficult because it would ultimately take an immense amount of trust with both our current allies as well as opposing government forces. There’s also the fact that not only are WMDs evolving, but they already can’t all be accounted for, thanks to nuclear submarines. Still, initiatives such as the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) work to lead global efforts to reduce the use of WMDs and their spread into terrorist organizations.
As a race, humans have learned to live with weapons of mass destruction for several decades. It’s a responsibility none of us can afford to get wrong, but long-term efforts are still necessary. Combined with keeping WMDs from getting into the wrong hands also comes the responsibility of disincentivizing other nations from expanding their nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs.