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International Security 28.3 (2003/04) 123-148



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A Double-Edged Sword
Globalization and Biosecurity

Kendall Hoyt and Stephen G. Brooks


A common argument since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, is that while economic globalization brings enhanced efficiency, this comes at the cost of greater vulnerability to terrorism. Audrey Kurth Cronin maintains, "The current wave of international terrorism, characterized by unpredictable and unprecedented threats from nonstate actors, not only is a reaction to globalization but is facilitated by it." 1 "It would be naïve to assume," says Cronin, "that what is good for international commerce and communication is not also good for international terrorists." 2 Similarly, Kurt Campbell contends, "Much has been written about the forces of globalization—the relentless expansion of market forces and the constant search for greater economic efficiencies.... Many of the things that have left Western societies vulnerable to terrorist attacks are the very efficiencies that have come as a consequence of the relentless search for efficiency and the maximization of productivity, by person, companies, and countries." 3 Stanley Hoffman argues that Islamic terrorism is partly fueled by "a resistance to 'unjust' economic globalization.... Insofar as globalization enriches some and uproots many, thosewho are both poor and uprooted may seek revenge and self-esteem in terrorism." 4

This perspective is not just wrong; it is also dangerous. Economic globalization is a double-edged sword: It has the potential both to enhance and to reduce the terrorist threat simultaneously. It is crucial to reduce the number of vulnerabilities associated with economic globalization, such as by developing [End Page 123] more rigorous border inspection procedures. 5 Yet it also must be recognized that many of the most effective tools for dealing with the terrorist threat are themselves partly the products of globalization. Many scholars now focus on the potential need to restrict economic globalization to reduce the terrorist threat. 6 In contrast, we argue that globalization presents opportunities, not just challenges, in the effort to deal with international terrorism.

In this article, we show that the full range of effects of economic globalization need to be considered when examining the bioterrorist threat and how best to respond to it. Improving defenses against a biological weapons (BW) attack is a principal security issue facing the United States and the world in the twenty-first century. 7 Even before the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, there was a growing understanding within the security and global health communities that pathogens pose a threat equal to, if not greater than, military might. 8 Biological weapons offer a relatively inexpensive and surreptitious method ofinflicting mass casualties. 9 As one recent analysis concludes, "Biotechnology is one of only two technologies that truly deserve the label 'agent of mass destruction' and it is by far the more accessible of the two." 10 Given the difficulties of policing their proliferation or tracing their source once deployed, [End Page 124] biological weapons will remain attractive to any individual, group, or nation with a desire to inflict harm and to avoid detection. The biological threat is grave, and it is here to stay.

Although it is misleading to assume that it will be possible to devise a technological "fix" to this threat, advances in science and technology lie at the coreof U.S. efforts to develop a comprehensive biodefense strategy. Yet, as with economic globalization, science and technology possess a double-edged quality. Although open systems of research, communication, and commerce facilitate the development of biomedical countermeasures such as new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, these systems also support advances in the development of biological weapons. How is it possible to maximize innovation and efficiency in the development of technologies to thwart bioterrorists while minimizing the potential abuses of biotechnology? To assess the influence of globalization on U.S. biodefense strategies, we examine the dynamics of innovation for a core biodefense technology: vaccines.

The first section of this article argues that investment in better defensive measures is crucial for the United States and other countries that are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 123-148
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-09
Open Access
No
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