Terrorist activities have taken on new dimensions that were unimaginable some decades ago. Nowadays, individuals can utilize sophisticated technological networks, diverse memberships and sophisticated arms to carry out their attacks. Weapons of Mass Destruction are a particular cause for concern as they have been used in other countries to advance terrorists’ goals. The paper shall focus on the Aum Shinrikyo cult of Japan and its utilization of WMD as a case study. Through comparisons with the Japanese scenario, it will be argued that the US is just as susceptible to weapons of mass destruction and that suitable strategies must be employed to curb such possibilities.
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Assessment of the Situation and Problem Definition
The Aum Shinrikyo cult staged six attacks against Japan citizens through the employment of WMD. First it started with a biological attack against Japan’s parliament building by spraying a dangerous toxin known as botulinus in the air. However, this first attack failed as they used the wrong spraying device. A second biological attack employing the same toxin was staged against international dignitaries visiting the country’s reigning Prince (Marshall & Kaplan 25). Once again, this attack failed due to excess environmental stress. The third attack employed use of anthrax which was designed to exterminate a sizable number of Tokyo residents but this did not go well either. A chemical attack was then carried out in order to kill judges making rulings on this cult’s activities. The judges alongside two hundred people were rendered ill while seven others were killed. The latter event occurred on May, 1995 and it caused a national stir after Japan realized the possible dangers that such a group could create. Shortly after, the cult organized another chemical attack. Here, it targeted the general public during a national holiday through the use of sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid. This attack was not successful as there were no deaths. However, it had the potential to kill over twenty thousand citizens if a fire had not started.
Although a large number of their attempts failed in causing deaths, the cult was still able to generate fear and insecurity amongst its populace. The latter concept is a common terrorist objective as psychological tactics are critical in achieving their aims.
The terrorist activities of the Aum Shinrikyo cult denote a series of problems within the Japanese society and these very problems can be witnessed in the US today. First, the Japanese government had failed in recognizing any biological threats within its environments. This was especially disturbing given the fact that a series of labs were necessary in order to generate the cult’s toxins. Similarly, the US also lacks adequate monitoring labs to ensure that pathogens of a destructive nature are detected. The monitoring systems that are currently in place lack effective control as well as coordination (Kellman 34).
Secondly, Japan failed to budget for antiterrorist programs targeting the use of WMD especially those ones that are biological in nature and this allowed a notorious terrorist group to continue with its activities unabated. The US has enacted a series of threat reduction programs; however the budget still falls short of what is needed to counter large scale attacks. Besides this, Japan was not aware of some of the latest drugs and biological agents that can be used to advance terrorist causes. The US is also in such a position today; although it has research and development teams designed to look into such aspects, these teams rarely collaborate with international allies. Japan also failed to take on a multidimensional approach to biological and chemical WMDs. Instead, it opted to deal with issues on a one on one basis. The US also lacks such holistic approaches where it carries out nationalistic monitoring of any biological and chemical threats.
Japan was not in a position to respond to chemical threats that were perceived to be a national danger (Marshall & Kaplan 31). It only stepped up its efforts after the death of seven people. Similarly, the United States’ response efforts to chemical weapons of mass destruction are wanting. State laboratories do not possess the ability to counter possible attacks on a large scale basis. Besides this, protection of the general public in the event of a chemical attack my also be problematic. Another disturbing issue is the fact that some chemical weapons within the US military’s custody have not yet been destroyed. As it is only half of the weapons have been eliminated but more efforts are needed to get rid of the rest.
The US government must engage in immediate actions to curb these impending dangers. It can approach the latter problems through three alternatives: the administrative approach, the strategic approach or the international cooperation approach. In this first approach, the US department of Defense must place an influential official in charge of decisions concerning antiterrorist threat programs on WMD and funding of the program. The latter individual ought to be held accountable for producing results in this area. If such an approach is taken then this could lead to excessive pressure on one individual. Additionally, it ignores the efforts of so many other persons within the Department that can contribute towards preventing casualties arising out of the use of WMD. Also, various stakeholders in national Defense may differ on who should be granted such a task. People may also respond poorly to directions given by a person holding a previously unknown position. On the other hand, the strategy will ensure clear leadership and direction in this area of terrorism prevention. It will also deal with budgetary constraints as the official will be responsible for it. The policy alternative will also restore adequate coordination with regard to chemical and biological counter terror efforts (European Union Council 21)
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The second option is a strategic one that will entail curving out a holistic approach towards the problem of chemical and biological WMD. As it has been stated earlier in the problem definition, there are haphazard initiatives and programs garnered at stamping out potential biological and chemical threats in the US. Coordination is seriously lacking in these initiatives and the only way that the Defense Department can eliminate such a problem is by linking all these programs, prioritizing the ones that need adequate attention and then coordinating implementation of their objectives. If a holistic approach is taken, then it will lead to better results, leaner operations and positive rewards. Also, this strategic option can also cause alienation of important research and development initiatives that may bear fruits in the future with regard to countering terrorist threats. The latter problem is likely to arise because of budgetary constraints. However, some initiatives may already be taking up too much of the Defense Department’s budget yet their results are not tangible.
Thirdly, the Defense Department has the option of taking on an international dimension. Since terrorism rarely takes place in nationalistic circle alone, there is a need to make use of bilateral associations, regional and multilateral institutions as well as other international ties. If the Defense department was to strengthen cooperation with international stakeholders, then it is likely that this may result in elimination (or at least reduction) of common chemical and biological threats among nations. If this strategy alternative is chosen then the US security Initiative will be strengthened, US technological capacities will be improved and this will mean non proliferation of biological or chemical weapons with mass capabilities. Nonetheless, this policy option may not solve the problem of coordination between various US antiterrorism bodies. There may also be problems in managing expectations. Additionally, legal disputes caused by certain bilateral ties may also threaten the success of such an endeavor.
Recommendations of Actions
The most plausible policy alternative is the one with the least impediments which is the second one i.e. the strategic approach. Here a coordination blueprint will be set up to bring together all national and federal efforts geared at curbing WMD threats. The initiative must entail identification and coordination of the following:
- Private actors
- Intelligence agencies
- US security agencies
- Foreign allies dealing with WMDs
These bodies that will have been integrated will be expected to reevaluate their concepts of potential biological and chemical threats as these definitions are rapidly changing. In so doing, the US Defense Department will be able to deal with its current problem of obsoleteness.
The policy will also cause an elimination of any bureaucratic problems surrounding the realization of counter WMD efforts. If a comprehensive system is sort, then staffing shortfalls in various agencies will be eliminated. Also, budgetary restrictions will be reduced especially for programs dealing with very urgent objectives. Detection of new technologies carried out by potential or real terrorists will also be possible. Besides, science and technology capacities will be developed fully so as to address the problem adequately (European Union Council 13).
When various programs are sufficiently coordinated, then it will be possible for the Department of Defense to comprehensively acknowledge the role of improvised, new or traditional weapons of mass destruction. This can be possible by renewing the current biological and chemical lists that the Department of Defense possesses and also by including technological advancements in these areas.
The engagement of the private sector and academic personnel is also critical in enacting a holistic policy approach. This is because through these avenues, the Department will be furthering research and development efforts that are critically needed in counter WMD efforts. Tracking mechanisms can also be a possibility if various stakeholders work together as this enables detection of toxic agents being carried by the concerned parties. Such approaches also mean that destruction of military chemical weapons can also be fully destroyed as all teams working towards this will be placed under one umbrella. Lastly, an efficient budgetary process is likely to be achieved through this option because only priority issues will be treated and those that do not address immediate concerns are likely to be placed on the periphery of this implementation program.
It should be noted here that there are immense possibilities for what technologies can do in the implementation phase of this policy. First of all tracking and detecting Weapons of Mass Destruction can be done through the use of a Wide Area Tracking system. This is especially effective if it has been combined with the joint remote biological early warning system. The latter systems are best utilized within locations that are perceived as being highly susceptible to terrorist attacks. In Japan, the cult targeted a building that held the judges who were handling their court case. Consequently, these technologies would have come in handy if they had been deployed in the latter selections. Likewise, the US Defense Department needs to identify similar areas that may be a danger to the public and then place those systems there. Biological representative agents will be alerted every time there is a perceived danger thus preventing possible damages.
The radiation detector (portable) should also be utilized for this strategy because it can be quite effective in identifying weapons of mass destructions within airports or shipping ports. Lastly, biological terrorism can be easily countered through employment of the mini cytometer. This instrument is not as bulky as other detectors and can therefore be easily transported from location to location. It is critical to understand that without finding the sources of WMD, it can be almost impossible to counter those attacks; therefore any effective strategy option must include ways of achieving the latter objective. For this policy, technology will be the best way to go. (Kellman 14).
All in all, the adoption of a robust and comprehensive integrative strategy will go a long way in reversing terrorist efforts with regard to WMD. Japan was subjected to such challenges in 1995 because their counter terrorist attempts were more like patchwork rather than representative of one harmonious group. It was only when the government decided to effectively coordinate its efforts that it succeeded in carrying out raids on this cultic group. Therefore, the US must learn from another country’s experience. A comprehensive strategy is the best way of countering possible WMD attacks as it addresses almost all the weaknesses inherent in current terrorist strategies.
Monitoring the Policy
When it comes to monitoring this policy, it will be critical to divide the measures into four wide areas. The first area that will receive the most attention is intelligence. New systems and technologies should be implemented in order to track potential WMD activities. In other words, the use of modern communications equipments will be indicative of success in this area. The group that will be responsible for ensuring that this policy objective is met will be the Defense Department’s technological team. They will be in charge of ascertaining that all possible production, development and transportation of WMDs done through new technologies have been detected and curbed effectively (Commission on prevention of WMD 22).
The second aspect that will be monitored is prevention of possible terrorist activities. The group responsible for this will be the commission on intelligence activities as the latter group has sound experience when it comes to WMD in the United States. This group will find out whether there have been any material program controls that are geared at preventing various terrorist groups from using WMDs. Interception and detection of such weapons will be critical in order to protect the country in the event of any attacks.
Crisis management will also be monitored and the group responsible for this will be a WMD agency that has specialized on crisis management. This agency will look into a series of parameters. First of all, it must make sure that sensor systems have been adequately developed. By so doing the Defense Department will be in a position where it can easily locate these WMDs and disable them before they can be used to achieve terrorist objectives. Also, monitoring this parameter will also involve making sure that the chemical weapons that belong to the military are in safe hands. In order to achieve the latter objectives, it will be necessary for the chosen agency to possess an effective deterrence and response database. It will also need other technologies that can facilitate the tracing of sources every time a material or device that can be used as a weapon of mass destruction is detected. This is largely because the materials usually have routes that are followed. When carefully analyzed, these routes can lead to groups with ill intent or terrorist organizations (Commission on prevention of WMD 56).
Consequence management will also need to be handled by different WMD agents as well. This group will investigate whether some preparations and planning efforts have stepped up by the emergency response personnel of the Defense Department so as to ensure that they can deal with some of the immense casualties that can arise out of the use of weapons of mass destruction. These same groups will also be responsible for determining or estimating which populations may be at risk in the event of chemical or biological attacks. They can do this by looking at possible transport models since the Japan WMD attacks were mostly targeted at Tokyo’s subway systems. If the latter country had designated certain agents to monitor potential risk factors, then chances are that some of the deaths that occurred because of the attacks would have been prevented. Similarly, it is necessary to acknowledge that some regions or locations are more susceptible to deposition of biological toxins or harmful chemicals. The designated agents must make sure that they monitor such risk factors and ensure that no emergencies arise from there (Intelligence Capabilities Commission 15). It is a well known fact that such a rigorous national integration program may not be easy to achieve. However, one must remember that careful planning and coordination can achieve anything.
Evaluation of the Policy
The first aspect i.e. intelligence will be critical in the success of the project. It must therefore be monitored on a quarterly basis. The technology team will need to make reports of any achievements and major strides made towards tracing possible WMD terrorist activities through technologies. They must include only new developments in their reports (European Union Council 46).
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Terrorism prevention as a parameter for evaluation may not be easily quantifiable. Consequently, the designated agency will only be required to evaluate the Defense Department’s performance on an annual basis. Here, they will be expected to summarize any possible terrorist activities that had been deterred by their efforts.
Planning and preparation will be monitored on a monthly basis because they will drive the Defense Department’s efforts. The agents chosen for monitoring this aspect must also do annual checks on chemical weapons belonging to the US military. Identification of risk population evaluations will also be done on a monthly basis because potential risks usually change drastically. All the latter evaluations will fall under crisis management and consequence management.
The United States can learn so much from WMD attacks carried out in Tokyo Japan as it was ill prepared for such a form of terrorism. The US is also in such danger and this is why it needs to adopt a national and holistic strategic approach to dealing with WMDs. Specialist agents and the US defense department’s technology team will be responsible for monitoring the success of this policy. Technology will also be another critical aspect of the initiative.
Commission on prevention of WMD. World at risk. NY: Associated Press, 2009. Web.
European Union Council. The EU WMD strategy. External relations and general affairs council. 2006. Web.
Intelligence Capabilities Commission. “Don’t ask don’t tell – devil is in the details.” American Prospect Magazine, 2003. Web.
Kellman, Barry. US policies to reduce bio-threats. US department of Defense, 2007. Web.
Marshall, Andrew & Kaplan, David. The Cult at the end of the world. NY: Crown Press. Print.