Sarin is a chemical weapon nerve agent which, if it gets in your body, causes your muscles to contract uncontrollably. It causes a very painful death by suffocation, as the diaphragm is a muscle, and the violent spasms of the diaphragm will prevent you from breathing, and thus cause your death. Inhaling sarin can cause death in as quickly as one minute, or the agony can be extended over a period of up to 12 hours.
Cyclosarin is another chemical nerve agent that is twice as toxic as sarin, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was manufacturing and stockpiling this chemical weapon during the First Gulf War.
VX is another chemical agent that is more than 10 times as toxic as sarin, is a liquid, and if a tiny amount comes into contact with a person’s skin, that person will be dead in very short order.
There are also many biological weapons agents. Ebola virus for example can be weaponized, is spread through direct contact, and takes about a week to kill the average person (in a particularly disgusting manner).
Botulinum toxin is deadly in incredibly small doses, as little as a billionth of a gram causes muscle contractions, followed by paralysis, followed by almost certain death.
Pneumonic plague, historically known as the Black Plague or Black Death during the Dark Ages, has also been weaponized, infests the lungs, and kills within three or four days of contact.
Anthrax is a spore, which if it gets into the lungs, reproduces and creates a toxin which usually kills, generally quite painfully.
And even smallpox, which is highly contagious, and which is thought to have been essentially eradicated worldwide, is feared to be a target of terrorist intentions to create new strains that could be spread to an unsuspecting public.
U.S. strategic defense policy for decades now, whether under Democratic or Republican Administrations has been to keep threats of such chemical and biological attacks at bay by making it clear that such attacks against America could trigger a potential nuclear counterattack. This policy has worked quite well since the Truman Administration back in the late 1940’s.
Well, President Obama has decided to change that policy. He has decided that even if the United States is hit with a crippling biological, chemical, or cyber attack, we will not even consider hitting back with a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, this is madness. It’s irresponsible, it’s naive, and it will get us nothing in return – except possibly a chemical, biological, or cyber attack on U.S. soil, or against our troops overseas.
One example illustrates how the previous U.S. policy actually worked in the real world. In the First Gulf War in 1990, after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had overrun Kuwait, and U.S. forces and our allies were ready to launch Operation Desert Sword and push Saddam out of Kuwait, U.S. representatives met behind the scenes with Saddam’s Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, and told him in no uncertain terms, that if Saddam used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops or against our allies, he was risking a nuclear strike by the U.S. Saddam, not wanting to risk such devastation, never used chemical or biological weapons (which he definitely had at that time) and U.S. troops rolled over Iraqi forces in fairly short order. Had Saddam used chemical or biological weapons, U.S. casualties would have increased substantially. Just the threat was enough to save many American lives.
Why take away the option? It only weakens our position when dealing with our foes around the world. Hopefully, President Obama will reconsider this dangerous and naive policy change. But don’t hold your breath – or maybe you should.