Current military use of chemical warfare agents.
Traditionally toxic products have been chosen for this use, with preference the more lethal. Their modern uses look more for the ability of these agents to jam the performance of various mobile modern military operations. Indeed, the defensive measures against these chemical aggressors involve the use of cumbersome personal carrying equipment, well-sealed coats and collective shelters, complicating the construction of fixed and field fortifications, and laborious means for the detection of its presence and for the complete decontamination of the area affected by its use, overloading the logistics. In modern mobile warfare the proper pace or tempo of operations is a synergistic feature of the combat and movement capabilities of units. And the obstacles and reinforced cuts, the minefields, the destruction of bridges, the crossings of water flows, the carrying out of unnecessary or secondary operations leads to losses at that appropriate rate.
According to this, an unscrupulous adversary could gain some tactical advantage by threatening his employment, especially if he does so against an enemy determined not to use them or who lacked them for useful employ in combat. This adversary would cause the threatened force serious logistical, tactical and operational problems, by adopting the uncomfortable and onerous preventive measures indicated. Which would never be absolute in time, place and strength. In doing so, he would still have the advantage of deciding to use them on a suitable occasion.
Current developments in chemical agents and their prospects.
Today, the great military powers that have the right technologies for this, barely try to find or develop new agents for chemical warfare. Since the mid-60s of the last century, all research, testing and development efforts have focused on employing known agents more appropriately and effectively. One way to increase an agent’s effectiveness is to add a thickening product that «supports and fixes» it during use. This makes the area attacked more difficult to clean and the active agent adhered to the heavy, neutral and porous «organic polymer», the aforementioned fixative, evaporates much more slowly, prolonging the effective attack time.
A second development of the above trend is the use of a binary chemical system. This would ideally use two products of very low toxicity isolated, which, once in contact, would produce the desired chemical agent. In general, the binary system has the initial advantage of allowing better storage, transport and handling than military chemical agents, by keeping the danger away until the final stages of its use. Until now, this reaction or combination is more or less incomplete, because not all of the two component products are able to react. Since they begin to «pair up», the formed agent is hindering or preventing with its inevitable and growing presence, the chemical contact, intimate, of the remaining molecules of the primary reagents. On the other hand, at least one of the products used is usually toxic and aggressive, but much less than the final agent sought.
A third way to employ agents it is more effective to protect them from defensive actions against them, by incorporating a chemical that acts on the defensive reagents and degrades them. For example, against an individual protective mask would be used a penetrating and aggressive product against its filter. This would allow the chemical agent to circulate unharmed through it and assault the supposedly protected individual. The consequent psychological effects of stupor and helplessness would increase the damage to the individual and his small military unit in chemical warfare.
The control of chemical agents in the international context. Problems posed by certain non-democratic medium powers.
In 1925, the Geneva Convention promulgated a protocol prohibiting the first use (but not the reply or answer of the attacked) of the chemical agents in any conflict. Gradually, up to 120 nations have been ratifying this agreement, including the USSR and the US (in 1975).
Some nations consider defiling agents and tear gas agents not included in the protocol. Others think they are and think that the US violated the spirit of its control during the Vietnam War. The disagreements, far from being clarified, continue, since, for example, the discussions reach the recent products that attack the filters of the individual masks and that are harmless to people, but that disable their protective equipment.
All this is making it progressively more difficult to politicians and legislators, stuck in rhetoric, semantics and their conflicting and even confusing interests, to identify simple and effective minimum standards of use, monitoring and control of potentially aggressive products.
For their part, large nations with technologies suitable for their production and employment have established on their own various agreements aimed at limiting the storage of agents, as an expression of a permanent capacity of their use. In addition, there are «on-site» inspections of potential factories and suspected sites of housing them and even of hiding them. However, they need to be supplemented by convincing and practical verification procedures and with the application of the punishment stipulated in them for violators of the limitations accepted with their signatures.
This raises, by logical extension, the problem of the middle powers that can develop or acquire those necessary technologies. The middle countries that own or generate large amounts of foreign exchange are ideal candidates for this.
There is currently a direct relationship between the quality of the militarization of a society (modern doctrine, means, training and readiness to use them) and the degree of development of public and private rights in it. The mass armies, less effective and more vulnerable today, can flourish in developing nations and in certain aristocracies (government of the most notable people in the state, not necessarily the best ones) enough developed.
The limitation of sensitive or dissident information will allow the leaders to emerge and lead in these undemocratic societies, a “national moral” and a “will of defense” functioning and healthy. These effective social factors of the state or national strategy, will be able to generate and sustain a war, even preventive, in certain cases: famines, climate changes, territorial and ethnic claims, population explosion and defense and exaltation of beliefs and religions.
For their part, the main and industrialized nations of this type, which, having the above vital characteristics, managed to make a qualitative leap in their development and to model an army with modern doctrine and means, instrument of its elites or oligarchies and backed by that drove nation, would present a special military danger on the future international scene.
For these nations, in their darkest political phases, chemical agents could easily be seen as the nuclear bombs of the poor and oppressed. And they would be considered entitled to possess them and to use them. Like other nations, in their periods of equivalent social development, they could investigate, synthesize, manufacture and even employ them. And I am thinking of regional conflicts, as seen in enunciating their goals, and, in a merely indicative, not exhaustive, count, in Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Ukraine.
Non-military proliferation and its use in special and terrorist activities. More effective and safe means of killing.
The chemical poisons are not in practice as repulsive and feared as biological agents. For this reason, is highly probable their isolated and timely use by professional assassins and by highly fanatical unscrupulous terrorists. Whose vital aim is to spread indiscriminate terror among the enemy’s unarmed civilian populations. Chemicals accompany us in life, many are poisonous, and are an essential part of our continued efforts to improve the lifespan and quality of life of humanity. And misuses do harm and cause pain in their victims or in their «reckless profane manipulators«. Just see how are protected with costumes and masks more impressive than space, the professionals who study, manufacture, distribute and use them industrially.
Chemical agents have never been used during the last 100 years in operations outside of fixed, stable and fortified fronts, or against massive frontal attacks, without NBQ-protected vehicles, which invited their productive employment. Today, the goal is reducing the pace of the enemy’s mobile military operations (the «tempo»). Chemical agents are «zones weapons«, they act in a previously well chosen area, within a superior operational plan. The use of aggressive chemicals in very fluid tactical «interphases of action» of units and small military units against «groups» of rebels is not practical. And fears of these weapons falling into the hands of anti-Western terrorists are not very well founded. After the fall of the USSR and the emergence of a semi-articulated Russian Federation passed a time, in which it was thought that a great spread of NBQ weapons would occur towards terrorist and/or separatist groups and rebellious or scoundrel states. And this did not happen.
We remember the case of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who was first said to have been poisoned with a salt of thallium contained in an insecticide. And, then, it was confirmed that the poison was Polonium 210, a radioactive isotope of that poisonous metal from the calcium and radium metal family. The radioactive and unspeakable trail of the attack spread through half of Western Europe, raising all kinds of information and comments in the world’s media.
Did you know that Polonium 210 is very present in smoking tobacco, because the plant concentrates it relatively in its metabolism, taking it from the ground? It could not be made more evident and sloppy that execution. Using Leninist terminology, we could say that it was a «provocation of the enemy services«. And even the goons, even if they are «official», are not what they were in the past. How education degrades at all levels!