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The Gathering Biological Warfare Storm.

The Gathering Biological Warfare Storm edited by Jim A. Davis and Barry R. Schneider. Praeger Publishers (http://www.praeger.com), 88 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut 06881-5007, 2004, 272 pages, $39.95 (hardcover).

This collection of essays focuses on aspects of biological warfare that have acquired new importance since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the mailings of letters containing anthrax. The authors discuss not only well-known threats, such as the anthrax scare, but also less publicized topics such as foot-and-mouth disease, which can quickly destroy entire livestock populations. The latter form of terrorism would have the dual effect of destroying portions of the food supply and the wealth of the US farming industry. As the essay on this disease points out, this type of warfare--waged as recently as World War I in the United States--constitutes a real threat.

Another piece, which addresses the ability of the public-health sector to respond to a bacterium, virus, or toxin, should serve as a wake-up call to the entire medical profession. Drawing on internal hospital studies, the editors conclude that most doctors cannot spot symptoms of a biological attack since they assume that they are dealing with patients who need treatment for disease rather than with victims of a deliberate attack. The anthrax threat also helps to explain the urgency of vaccinating military personnel. Undoubtedly, the debate over the safety of the vaccine will interest the Air Force reader. Smallpox, another biological- warfare agent that could unleash terror and paralysis in a modern Western society, merits its own chapter.

Other chapters, all of which are well written and easy for the layman to understand, provide an overview of biological-warfare agents carried by land- attack cruise missiles and other possibilities for biological warfare in the Middle East. Far more worrisome is the chapter on the next generation of biological-warfare weaponry. The ability to manipulate genes and splice other material into a biological- warfare agent at the cellular level makes current and known countermeasures ineffective or impossible to design; thus, biological warfare would become the scourge of civilization. The discussion of Soviet activities until 1990 will certainly raise some concerns. If Russian scientists and experts move to countries working on offensive biological-warfare programs, the results could be catastrophic. The development of designer genes, designer diseases, and stealth viruses is the next level of offensive biological warfare, for which defensive measures will be elusive without extensive intelligence gathering. The book's final chapter waylays some existing myths about biological warfare and then describes several scenarios whereby the United States could be attacked with biological agents and the associated likely outcomes. After 9/11 we can no longer afford to discount these scenarios.

The selection of topics in Colonel Davis and Dr. Schneider's timely and engaging book will help all levels of the Air Force understand biological warfare and the potential threats it poses. I highly recommend The Gathering Biological Warfare Storm as a major addition to biological-warfare texts that contain current information rather than abstract theoretical pieces.

Capt Gilles Van Nederveen, USAF, Retired

Fairfax, Virginia
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Author:Van Nederveen, Gilles
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2005
Words:510
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