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Politics and the Life Sciences is about to enter its second pioneering decade. Its first decade has been exciting and productive; its second should prove even more so. I am honored to serve as editor as we enter that second decade. I hope I will be a worthy successor to Tom Wiegele, the extraordinary man who founded the journal and guided it for almost ten years. This issue is dedicated to Tom's memory, with affection, respect, and gratitude.
Primatology supports a feminist ethical naturalism rooted in evolutionary biology. Patriarchal exploitation can be condemned as contrary to women's natural needs and capacities, although prudence is required in recognizing how ecological circumstances limit the range of practicable reform. Donna Haraway's history of primatology, however, illustrates the tendency of some feminists to reject naturalistic realism in favor of nihilistic relativism. Such relativism is disastrous for the feminist position, because it deprives the feminist of any ground in nature for criticizing patriarchal customs. The scenario of “Woman the Gatherer” illustrates feminist naturalism in primatology. Judging female circumcision as frustrating the natural needs of both men and women illustrates the power of feminist naturalism for cultural critique.
It is proposed that the established epidemiologic framework normally used for investigation of civilian epidemics can usefully be adapted to provide a more structured approach to future investigations of allegations of chemical, biological, or toxin warfare. Using this framework, investigations of such allegations during the past decade are reviewed. These investigations took place during the yellow rain affair in Laos and Kampuchea, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Iraq-Kurd war. Further allegations are likely and will require investigation.
The article by Peter Barss is a valuable contribution to the existing literature on the investigation of the use of chemical, biological, or toxin weapons (CBW).1 He constructs detailed procedures to investigate allegations of the use of any of these weapons from the perspective of epidemiology theory. Barss reviews the investigations of the alleged use of toxin weapons (“yellow rain”) in Laos and Cambodia, the use of chemical weapons by both sides in the Iran-Iraq war, and the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against its own Kurdish population. He argues persuasively that these inquiries would have been conducted more effectively if the teams had followed standard procedures for field investigations according to epidemiology theory.
Important insight into a problem can result from cross-disciplinary thinking. And yet, when I read an argument such as Arnhart's, I am often struck by the difficulty of bridging the gaps between disciplines, especially in relation to words that may be commonly used but differentially understood. The word nature is used without definition in many different forms and contexts in Arnhart's paper; and yet, throughout my reading of it, I felt that the author and I had not arrived at a firm and common understanding of the word.
Arnhart argues that a scientific understanding of women's nature, achieved through primatology and related disciplines, can serve as a basis for judging social arrangements. Those arrangements that promote the expression of women's “natural potentials” should be encouraged. Based on this argument, the key issues are (1) how to determine the “natural” potential of women, and (2) how to use this information to judge social arrangements. I will begin by focusing on the second and more fundamental issue; I will return later to the first.
In June of 1991, a team of experts from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspected an Iraqi facility at Samarra, known as the “Muthanna State Enterprise for Pesticide Production.” Its inspection revealed a chemical weapons factory (United Nations, 1991). Inspectors found mustard gas and organophosphorus nerve agents, types GB and GF, as well as tabun—agent GA (CBW News, 1991). They estimated that the facility had the capacity to produce 2.5 tons of sarin and 5 tons of mustard gas per day. According to media reports, “dozens” of companies were implicated in the construction and production processes of the facility, including companies originating from Austria, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, the United States, and seven other countries (CBW News, 1991; Independent, July 17, 1991).
Anyone interested in assessing an allegation of unconventional warfare would agree with the statement by Peter Barss that “the investigation of an alleged outbreak of CBTW should be conducted, whenever possible, in accordance with the well-tested steps that guide the standard epidemiologic investigation of an outbreak of disease or injuries.” In fact, during my tenure as commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, response teams were organized in various configurations to deploy on short notice to carry out thorough epidemiological investigations should an incident occur in which the use of biological agents might be suspected or considered. The teams were equipped and organized with the appropriate mix of expertise to carry out the type of epidemiological investigations discussed by Barss.
Peter Barss makes a compelling case both for the value of epidemiology in investigating suspected use of chemical, biological, or toxin warfare (CBTW), and for consistency in epidemiologic procedures. Since John Snow in the nineteenth century, “armed only with [his] five senses and [his] notebook,” carried out his pioneering epidemiologic investigations to determine the source of the cholera epidemic then raging in London, the value of epidemiology for analyzing incidents of unexpected illness or death, in whatever context they occur, has been demonstrated many times over. Despite this, as Barss convincingly shows, the routine practice of field epidemiology is still often not fully or properly utilized in investigating alleged CBTW.
A global epidemiological surveillance system is needed both for verification of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and as a confidence-building measure for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). This proposal should be part of the agenda of the Fourth Review Conference of the BWC, with preliminary consideration and analysis conducted at the national level and by appropriate international expert groups in preparation for the Review Conference. An example of the kind of program that might be constructed is described. Such a program would make it very difficult for hostile use of biological agents to remain undetected, would catalyze a dramatic increase in global public, agricultural, and veterinary health, and would offer reasonable assurance that emerging diseases would be detected at an early stage. These benefits easily justify the expenditures that would be required.
There seems to be an obvious contradiction in the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Whereas Article III reasonably requests restriction of transfer of biological warfare (BW) and toxin warfare (TW) agents, equipment, and means of delivery, Article X not less reasonably calls for peaceful international cooperation in microbiology. This contradiction became especially obvious in the late 1980s, for two reasons: (1) regional conflicts increased as one of the consequences of the peaceful end of the Cold War, with a corresponding increase in the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and (2) the technology gap between North and South continued to expand, not least as a direct consequence of the rapid development of molecular biotechnology in industrialized countries.
Is it possible to prevent biological, chemical, and toxin warfare from occurring? The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), an international treaty banning the possession and hostile use of biological and toxin weapons, already exists; and a similar chemical weapons treaty is currently being negotiated. The older Geneva Protocol of 1925 bans the “first use” of these weapons in war. It might seem that the threat of use of these weapons of mass destruction is nearly at an end.
Since my background includes involvement in the negotiations for the BWC and for the future Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), I have some general comments concerning possible implications of the program.
The unique contributions of five experts with diverse professional backgrounds and interests substantially augment my article, for which I am grateful. In my response, I will briefly summarize what I see as the principal addition of each author to the original findings, and then comment upon any reservations I have concerning their conclusions.
Supreme Court oral argument (OA) is one of many face-to-face settings of political interaction. This article describes a methodology for the systematic observation and measurement of behavior in OA developed in a study of over 300 randomly selected cases from the 1969-1981 terms of the U.S. Supreme Court. Five sources of observation are integrated into the OA database at the speaking turn level of analysis: the actual text of verbal behavior; categorical behavior codes; aspects of language use and speech behavior events; electro-acoustical measurement of voice quality; and content analysis of subject matter. Preliminary data are presented to illustrate the methodology and its application to theoretical concerns of the research project.
Mark Wheelis makes a thoroughly scientific case for deterring the covert use of biological weapons through a program of global epidemiological surveillance, thoughtfully laid out in terms of function, organization, and goals. In tactical terms, however, it seems a bit like the tail of biological weapons control wagging the dog of the “other benefits”—as Dr. Wheelis recognizes in discussing the latter. The driving force for such a program would surely be its benefits for world public and economic health.
The practice of medicine, which traditionally falls outside the sphere of substantive governmental control, poses challenges to political scientists who perceive the need for oversight regarding problematic new technologies. The challenge is even greater when the technologies involve reproduction, in which constitutional liberties are at stake. This article suggests a private policy model for overseeing one problematic emerging reproductive technology—the diagnosis of chromosomal and genetic disorders in human embryos. It bids political scientists to examine and recommend creative private sector policies appropriate to biomedicine. Rules developed in the private sector, if regarded as obligatory by clinicians, offer a theoretically interesting bridge between voluntary ethical principles and mandatory public sector rules.
Wheelis's idea of a global network of “epidemiological watch towers” is a great one, but I do not see any realistic prospect of getting adequate multilateral funding for such a network if its avowed main aim is to deter biological warfare (BW). To accelerate our understanding of disease processes—yes; to enhance microbiological technology transfer—yes. The BW watchtower function would be an incidental but very desirable side effect.