Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? A New Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats

Grantees in this story

In her forthcoming book, Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? A New Framework for Assessing BioweaponsThreats (The Johns Hopkins University Press)Carnegie Corporation grantee Kathleen M. Vogel, Associate Professor in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University’s Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, discusses these fears and how they prompted extensive research, study, and planning within the U.S. military, intelligence, and policy communities regarding potential attacks involving biological weapons.

Vogel, who is currently on sabbatical leave as Senior Fellow in the International Security Studies Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, argues for a major shift in how analysts assess bioweapons threats. She calls for an increased focus on the social and political context in which technological threats are developed.

Vogel uses case studies to illustrate her theory: Soviet anthrax weapons development, the Iraqi mobile bioweapons labs, and two synthetic genomic experiments. She concludes with recommendations for analysts and policymakers to integrate sociopolitical analysis with data analysis, thereby making U.S. bioweapon assessments more accurate. Students of security policy will find her innovative framework appealing, her writing style accessible, and the many illustrations helpful. These features also make Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? a must-read for government policymakers and intelligence experts.

Vogel’s research has been supported through a grant from Carnegie Corporation’s decade-long biological weapons program.  The program, managed by Patricia Moore Nicholas, is documented in Crafting Strategies to Control Biological Weapons, in a 2009 issue of The Carnegie Review.