29 November, 2013

Chemophobia II

Chemical weapons are scary. I'm afraid of chemical weapons. But are chemical weapons more scary than other weapons?

The question, "Why are chemical weapons more scary than other weapons?" was posed by Mark Loach in his radio programme, "Chemophobia" (see yesterday's post), but he didn't seem to answer it fully. He gave the example of the horrific deaths in Syria from chemical warfare, and asked why this was worse than the greater number of deaths from conventional weapons. Of course, the terms "biological weapons" or "physical weapons" (or even just "weapons") are frightening too. Mark seems to suggest that "chemical weapons" is a worse prospect in the eyes of the general public.

Chemical weapons are devices that contain chemicals specially formulated to cause death or injury to humans. The properties of the chemical in the devices are the "weapon" rather than any physically destructive force of the device. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW, Nobel Peace Prize winners 2013 "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons") administers the Chemical Warfare Control treaty, "an arms control treaty which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors." (Wikipedia)

 Chemical weapons maybe are viewed as agents that cause irreversible damage, injuries that cannot be fixed and horrific deaths. It's clearly right for their use and manufacture to be banned. How should we reconcile banning these agents and not all weapons of all kinds? Biological weapons and "conventional" weapons perhaps can cause death and injury, of course, but maybe their effects are not seen as quite as bad, because there is an "antidote" or broken bones can be fixed, physical injuries can be healed, or chemicals (or drugs) can be used to cure a person. Chemical weapons can be non-lethal, but can leave someone "contaminated" or incurable.

Anyway, I feel like I'm getting out of my depth pretty quickly here. So I'll leave it there for now. If anybody would like to add anything or question me, leave me a message or a tweet.


*Edit 22/12/2013* Periodic videos (Brady Haran) posted a...video on 2nd Sept 2013 on the topic of chemical weapons. Link. "Discussing chemical weapons, including Sarin and Mustard Gas.
Featuring professors Rob Stockman and Martyn Poliakoff from the University of Nottingham.
" As usual the video is entertaining and informative, more than I could explain here!

*Edit 2 22/12/2013* Further footage on the chemical weapons video linked above. link. Fritz Haber, binary weapons, "...it's a little unfair to attack chemistry for chemical weapons...", "In the end, the use of military force to solve political problems is something which I hope is becoming more and more unacceptable across the world"

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