certainly “Yes”; to the second, the answer is “We don’t know.” One of the characteristics that have made IEDs so attractive is that explosives of many sorts are readily available during a time of war. A powerful force is familiarity and habit, and if an innovator experimenting with chemical or biological weapons could prove them “successful” (where success would not necessarily be measured in people killed), the technology is readily available for broader use.
Chemical and biological weapons (CBW) have the characteristic that the advantage presently lies strongly with the attacker. There are many possible weapons, from those that are highly developed and very familiar (e.g., hydrogen cyanide, classical nerve agents, anthrax) through more advanced and less well understood threats (e.g., non-traditional agents or NTAs, and tularemia), to hypothetical threats (e.g., genetically engineered viruses) (see Box 1.1). Some of these agents might be used in large-scale, force-on-force engagements; others in “insurgencies of attrition” designed to force the United States to withdraw from a theatre due to financial and political fatigue. It is impossible technically—and unfeasible economically—to try to provide solutions to all threats. There is no analog to “stealth” or “nuclear weapons” or “overhead assets.” Scientific and technical innovations that provide such commanding advantage to neutralize the threat for a period of decades do not currently exist. Moreover, because this area of conflict involves everyone at the border between warfare and medicine, including military personnel and civilians on both sides of the conflict, it has—in the United States, but not in hands of some adversaries—regulatory constraints that slow development in ways that are unfamiliar to DoD. The problem is fractal: for every agent or organism, and for every countermeasure, there is a variation—and one that might be easy to implement—that escapes the countermeasure. The United States simply cannot afford to deal with all threats on an individual basis and there is no universal solution. It must choose what problems to solve. Not to choose—the strategy it has largely followed—has resulted in ineffective or uncertain defensive capabilities against many agents. As a result, even in best cases, combatant commanders have a (very) limited ability to estimate the influence of CBW on proposed operations especially when used in innovative ways. (See Appendix B.)