To protect the health and safety of Americans in the years ahead, the United States must focus its attention on large-scale attacks from its enemies. The biggest threat today originates from biological—not nuclear—weapons, particularly biological weapons obtained by terrorists.
That is the hypothesis of Thomas Preston, author of a new book, From Lambs to Lions: Future Security Relationships in a World of Biological and Nuclear Weapons. In the book, Dr. Preston, an expert in political psychology and international relations, discusses not only the immediate steps the United States must take to prepare for a quick, efficient, and effective response to a bioterrorist attack, but also how the proliferation of both nuclear and biological weapons has profoundly changed the dynamics of power around the globe. While the answers to international issues may not be crystal-clear, Dr. Preston is certain of one thing: the U.S. is drifting toward catastrophe.
With biological weapons, loosely organized groups outside of the political mainstream have the ability to capsize a superpower. Imagine a scenario in which individuals exposed to a deadly virus start to surface at local hospitals. The 30 or so intensive care beds quickly would be overwhelmed by the thousands needing treatment. Once the virus was identified, the small, inadequate supply of vaccine reserved for first responders would be used up and the rest of the population left unprotected. Given the mobility of the U.S. population, the infection—and the fear of infection—would spread across the country and perhaps the world.
Dr. Preston believes it’s not a matter of if but rather when and how renegade terrorist groups will use such weapons to cause the greatest number of civilian deaths possible. For instance, only one percent of the approximately 600,000 cargo containers brought into the nation’s ports each day are inspected, making Seattle and other seaports particularly vulnerable to attacks. While defending against every possible threat to U.S. soil is impossible, Dr. Preston thinks much can be done to lessen the likelihood of and to prepare an effective crisis response program to a bioterrorist attack.
Featuring: John Thomas Preston, Ph.D.
Dr. Preston’s research has focused extensively on nuclear and biological weapons proliferation, bioterrorism, leadership analysis, and foreign policy decision making. He has authored two other books, The President and His Inner Circle: Leadership Style and the Advisory Process in Foreign Affairs (2001, Columbia University Press) and Introduction to Political Psychology (2004, Erlbaum). He has also written numerous refereed journal articles and book chapters on presidential leadership, advisory relations, bureaucratic politics, and foreign policy analysis.