Skip to main content

A genealogy of the chemical weapons taboo

  • Richard Price

How is it, that among the countless technological innovations in weaponry, chemical weapons stand out as weapons that carry the stigma of moral illegitimacy. To provide an adequate account of the prohibitionary norm against chemical weapons use, one must understand the meanings that have served to constitute and delegitimize this category of weapons. Such an account is provided by genealogy, a method that examines the interpretive practices around which moral orders are constructed and behaviors are defined as normal or unacceptable. The genealogical method yields insights that illuminate neglected dimensions of the chemical weapons taboo: namely, the roles that contingency, domination, and resistance have played in the operation of this norm as a symbol of “uncivilized” conduct in international relations.

Hide All

Earlier drafts of this article were presented at Cornell University's Peace Studies Program; a Social Science Research Council/MacArthur workshop on norms and national security, Ithaca, New York, February 1993; and the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 2–5 September 1993. I thank those who commented on the paper at those forums, as well as Joseph Camilleri, Peter Katzenstein, Stephen Krasner, Judith Reppy, Christian Reus-Smit, Henry Shue, Daniel Thomas, Alexander Wendt, Mark Zacher, and three anonymous reviewers, all of whom provided valuable comments on various versions of this project. I gratefully acknowledge the support of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral fellowship. The epigraph is from Nietzsche, Friedrich, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Kaufmann, Walter (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), aphorism 108.

1. This article will confine itself to a discussion of chemical weapons and will not directly address biological weapons.

2. Alfred T. Mahan, U.S. delegate to the Hague Peace Conferences, is quoted in Scott, James Brown, The Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conferences (New York: Oxford University Press, 1920), p. 366.

3. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI ), The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, vol. 4, CB Disarmament Negotiations, 1920–1970 (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1971), p. 21.

4. See Brown, Frederic J., Chemical Warfare: A Study in Constraints (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968); SIPRI, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, vol. 1, The Rise of CB Weapons (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1971); and SIPRI, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, vol. 5, The Prevention of CBW (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1971). See also Adelman, Kenneth, “Chemical Weapons: Restoring the Taboo,” Orbis 30 (Fall 1986), pp. 443–55; Wright, Susan, “The Military and the New Biology,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 41 (05 1985), pp. 1016; and Ellis van, JohnMoon, Courtland, “Chemical Warfare: A Forgotten Lesson,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 45 (08 1989), pp. 4043.

5. See SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, pp. 321–22, and 334; and Brown, , Chemical Warfare, pp. 293–96.

6. Without dismissing altogether a role for the CW prohibition, Legro offers an organizational culture explanation for the unpreparedness of militaries and the nonuse of CW. See Legro, Jeffrey, Cooperation Under Fire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995).

7. The quotation is from Harris, Paul, “British Preparations for Offensive Chemical Warfare 1935–1939,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies 125 (06 1980), p. 61, emphasis mine. Similarly, the international legal restraints against CW were at least partially responsible for the low priority given to CW allocations in Germany. See Dr. Hans Fischer and Dr. Wirth, “What Were the Plans and Intentions of the German High Command in the Question of Using Chemical Warfare? What Were the Reasons for Refraining from the Use of Chemical Warfare?” Historical Office of the Chief of the Chemical Corps, German Chemical Warfare, part 2, Civilian Aspects (Washington, D.C.: Historical Office of the Chief of the Chemical Corps, 1956), p. 328.

8. The no-first-use pledge was not written into the protocol itself but instead resulted from the reservations most nations attached to their accessions. These reservations stipulated that the protocol would cease to be binding toward any power that violated it.

9. See Herman Ochsner, The History of German Chemical Warfare in World War II, Part 1, The Military Aspect (Washington, D.C.: Historical Office of the Chief of the Chemical Corps, 1949), p. 23; and Bradley, Omar N., A Soldier's Story (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1951), p. 279.

10. See Harris, Robert and Paxman, Jeremy, A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical and Biological Warfare (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), p. 135; Ochsner, , The History of German Chemical Warfare in World War II, p. 23.

11. See SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, p. 325; and Harris, and Paxman, , A Higher Form of Killing, p. 325.

12. The maintenance of the taboo owes no small part to the fortune of history that such circumstances never arose and to the subsequent importance of the resulting abstinence (whatever the reasons), which built a tradition of nonuse and reinforced the stigma against CW. The fact that CW were not used during World War II has in and of itself become a major justification for the CW prohibition. For example, during U.S. Senate hearings over Iraq's use of CW in the early 1980s, it was remarked that CW surely were reprehensible since even Hitler did not use them. No one present knew why Germany refrained from employing CW during World War II, but the salient fact remained: “We do know it did not happen.” See U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Policy Toward Iraq Human Rights, Weapons Proliferation, and International Law: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 101st Congress, 2d sess., 15 06 1990, p. 51.

13. These are the words of Major General Henderson. See Harris, and Paxman, , A Higher Form of Killing, p. 110.

14. According to a military intelligence officer, the war was expected to be “chemical probably from the very first hour.” See Healey, Melissa, “Chemical Attack Would Escalate Allied Retaliation,” Los Angeles Times, 21 02 1991, p. Al.

15. See United Nations Security Council, doc. S/24828; and Chemical Weapons Convention Bulletin, no. 17, September 1992, p. 12.

16. Quoted in Healey, “Chemical Attack Would Escalate Allied Retaliation”.

17. Thus, CW were not used even as other restraints against U.S. use of CW versus the Japanese began to erode toward the end of the war. These included the death of President Roosevelt, who had been staunchly opposed to CW use, and the effects of American racist propaganda, which demonized the Japanese and made the use of gas more palatable to much of the American public. See SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, pp. 294335.

18. Although the United States did not use lethal CW in Vietnam, it did use riot-control agents and defoliants, maintaining that use of those agents did not constitute chemical warfare. See Ibid., pp. 162–210. Allegations of, Soviet use of CW in Afghanistan, while rampant in the atmosphere of the cold war, never have been substantiated.

19. In a similar spirit, the first volume of the SIPRI study argues that while many factors prevented the use of CW, “at a deeper level, there was the whole question of accepting gas as a weapon of war, with all the institutional and psychological disturbances that this would involve.” See Ibid., p. 331.

20. See, for example, Fotion, Nicholas and Elfstrom, Gerard, Military Ethics: Guidelines for Peace and War (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), p. 168.

21. Haldane, John, “Ethics and Biological Warfare,” Arms Control 8 (05 1987) pp. 2435. Although made regarding biological weapons, Haldane's comments are still relevant. See also Creveld, Martin Van, Technology and War (New York, Free Press, 1989), p. 72.

22. Mandelbaum, Michael, The Nuclear Revolution (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981), chap. 4.

23. Indeed, this taken-for-granted quality of the poison taboo was in evidence at the Hague Conferences. Article 23(a) banning poison was reached without controversy or even substantive discussion; the moral taboo against poison had become an uncontested norm that needed no rationale or justification. See Hull, William I., The Two Hague Conferences (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1908), pp. 232–33. This was in evidence some years earlier at the Brussels conference. See Lawrence, T. J., Principles of International Law (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1923), pp. 5556; and Lorimer, James, The Institutes of the Law of Nations (Edinburgh: Blackwood and Sons, 1883), Appendix 2.

24. For references to the early disdain for poison see Grotius, Hugo, The Law of War and Peace (De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres), trans. Kelsey, Francis (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1925), bk. 3, chaps. 15–16; Roberts, Adam and Guelff, Richard, Documents on the Laws of War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 29; and Roberts, A. A., Poison in Warfare (London: William Heinemann, 1915), pp. 5257.

25. Schwarzenberger, Georg, Legality of Nuclear Weapons (London: Stevens and Sons, 1958), p. 31.

26. Grotius, Law of War and Peace, bk. 3, chap. 4, section 15. Vattel in 1758 offered a similar defense of the prohibition against poison weapons, arguing that such means only made war more deadly without either side gaining advantage. See Vattel, Emer de, Le Droit des Gens (The law of nations) (Leide, France: Aux depens de la compagnie, 1758), vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 8, par. 155–56. A more recent study has followed a similar line, noting that “the rule entered into international law primarily because medieval monarchs were often eliminated by their rivals via poison in food or drink. Poison was thus a very individualistic method of doing away with an enemy.” See Thomas, Ann Van Wynen and Thomas, A. J., Development of International Legal Limitations on the Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, vol. 2, report prepared for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1968, p. 254.

27. Hallissy, Margaret, Venomous Woman (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987), pp. 56.

28. Lawrence, , Principles of International Law, p. 533. In another formulation, it has been argued that “a weapon will be restricted in inverse proportion, more or less, to its effectiveness; that the more efficient a weapon or method of warfare the less likelihood there is of its being restricted in action by the rules of war.” See Royse, M. W., Aerial Bombardment and the International Regulation of Warfare (New York: H. Vinal, 1928), pp. 131–32.

29. Mallison, W. T., “The Laws of War and the Juridical Control of Weapons of Mass Destruction in General and Limited Wars,” George Washington Law Review 36 (12, 1967), pp. 308–36. The quotation is drawn from p. 318.

30. O'Brien, William V., “Biological/Chemical Warfare and the International Law of War,” The Georgetown Law Journal 51 (Fall 1962), pp. 1663.

31. Asphyxiating shells were discussed at The Hague even though they had yet to be developed. Isolated precursors of chemical warfare had appeared sporadically in the history of warfare, but their appearance was so rare that they play a negligible role in the development of a CW discourse. The history of such methods can be found in Hanslian, Rudolf, ed., Der Chemische Krieg (The chemical war), vol. 1 (Berlin: E.S. Mitler and Son, 1937), pp. 18; Miles, Wyndham, “The Idea of Chemical Warfare in Modern Times,” Journal of the History of Ideas 31 (01/03, 1970), pp. 297304; SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, pp. 125–27; and Waitt, Alden, Gas Warfare (New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1942), pp. 612.

32. The conventions, declarations, and other relevant documents of the Hague conferences are reprinted in Scott, James Brown, ed., The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, vol. 2, Documents (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1909).

33. Ibid, pp. 365–66. The declaration was the product of the Second Subcommission of the First Commission, which was dedicated to discussions on limiting explosives.

34. White, A. D., The First Hague Conference (Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1912), pp. 8283.

35. Suggestions to use choking smoke from ships in the Crimean War were rejected by the British because its effects were perceived to be so horrible that no honorable combatant could use the means required to produce it. See Miles, “The Idea of Chemical Warfare in Modern Times”; and West, Clarence J., “The History of Poison Gases,” Science 49 (2 05 1919), pp. 412–17.

36. See, for example, Davis, Calvin DeArmond, The United States and the First Hague Peace Conference (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1962), p. 175.

37. Excellent discussions of this distinction can be found in Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 202–3; Cross, Charles, “Explanation and the Theory of Questions,” Erkenntnis 34 (03 1991), pp. 237–60; and Hollis, Martin and Smith, Steve, Explaining and Understanding International Relations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).

38. See Hoffmann, Stanley, “An American Social Science: International Relations,” Daedalus 106 (Summer 1977), pp. 4160; and Smith, Steve, “Paradigm Dominance in International Relations: The Development of International Relations as a Social Science,” Millennium 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 189206. This focus also has tended to characterize rationalist regime theory of international relations scholarship, as exemplified by Stephen Krasner, “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables,” and Keohane, Robert “The Demand for Industrial Regimes,” both in Krasner, Stephen, ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984), pp. 121 and 145–71, respectively.

39. On this characteristic of international relations theory, see Smith, Steve, “The Forty Years' Detour: The Resurgence of Normative Theory in International Relations,” Millennium 21 (Winter 1992), pp. 489506; and Kratochwil, Friedrich, “The Embarrassment of Changes: Neo-Realism as the Science of Realpolitik Without Politics,” Review of International Studies 19 (01 1993), pp. 6380.

40. On different styles of interpretive analysis, see Hiley, David, Bohman, James, and Shusterman, Richard, eds., The Interpretive Tum (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Rabinow, Paul and Sullivan, William, eds., interpretive Social Science: A Second Look (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); and Dallmayr, Fred and McCarthy, Thomas, eds., Understanding and Social Inquiry (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977). On the relationship between genealogy and interpretation, see Gibbons, Michael, “Interpretation, Genealogy, and Human Agency,” in Ball, Terence, ed., Idioms of Inquiry: Critique and Renewal in Political Science (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp. 137–67.

41. Nietzsche is paraphrased by Nehemas, Alexander, Nietzsche: Life as Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 110.

42. See especially Nietzsche, Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morals, Kaufmann, Walter and Hollingdale, R. J., trans. (New York: Vintage Books, 1989). This concern recently has gained adherents in the natural sciences. In his work on evolutionary theory, Stephen Jay Gould has expounded upon his contention that “current utility may not be equated with historical origin.” See, for example, the chapter entitled “Of Kiwi Eggs and the Liberty Bell,” in Bully for Brontosaums (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1991), p. 114.

43. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Preface 3.

44. The term “interpretive” highlights the differences between the “how” questions of understanding meaning and the “why” questions of explaining causal outcomes, while the term “constructivist” calls attention to the ontological assumptions and causal models that distinguish postpositivist methods from the naturalist premises of positivism. See Wendt, Alexander, “Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 391425; Wendt, Alexander, “The Agent–Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 335–70; Kratochwil, Friedrich, “Regimes, Interpretation, and the ‘Science’ of Politics: A Reappraisal,” Millennium 17 (Summer 1988), pp. 263–84; and Neufeld, Mark, “Interpretation and the Science of International Relations,” Review of International Studies 19 (01 1993), pp. 3961.

45. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, 3rd essay, aphorism 23 (hereafter cited as 3.23); emphasis original.

46. Foucault, Michel, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Rabinow, Paul, ed., The Foucault Reader (Pantheon Books: New York, 1984), p. 79.

47. Nehemas, , Nietzsche, p. 113. The quotation is from Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” p. 78.

48. Nietzsche, , On the Genealogy of Morals 2.12.

49. Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” p. 80.

50. Nehemas, , Nietzsche, pp. 98113.

51. See, for example, the following works by Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972); The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1990); and Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Gordon, C. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).

52. Keeley, James F., “Toward a Foucauldian Analysis of International Regimes,” International Organization 44 (Winter 1990), pp. 83105.

53. See the following works by Foucault, Michel: Discipline and Punish (New York: Vintage Books, 1979); Power/Knowledge; and Politics, Philosophy, Culture (New York: Routledge, 1990).

54. Doty, Roxanne Lynn, “The Social Construction of Contemporary International Hierarchy,” vol. 1, Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1991, pp. 26–27 and 6970.

55. Hoy, David Couzens, “Introduction,” in Couzens, David by, ed., Foucault: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 15.

56. Kratochwil is careful to point out in his work on norms that power is not his particular focus of concern. Rather, he concentrates on the consensual choices of reasoning that lead to collective knowledge. He acknowledges, however, that understanding how socially dominant understandings become authoritative involves investigating not simply rational debates but also historical and cultural experiences-the focus of the genealogist's inquiries. See Kratochwil, Friedrich, Rules, Nouns, and Decisions: On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 33.

57. Derian, James Der, On Diplomacy (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), p. 483.

58. On the silence of rationalist approaches to questions concerning the constitution of identities and interest—and the contributions of constructivist approaches—see Wendt, “Anarchy is What States Make of It.”

59. As characterized by others, the CW taboo represents an “irrational” attitude towards technology and a “psycho-cultural aversion” that simply fails to meet the realist expectation that effective prohibitions are attained only for useless weapons. See Creveld, Van, Technology and War, p. 177; and Hamm, Manfred R., “Deterrence, Chemical Warfare, and Arms Control,” Orbis 29 (Spring 1985), pp. 119163 at p. 119, respectively.

60. As such, it answers the call for interpretive approaches to the study of norms made by Kratochwil, Friedrich and Ruggie, John Gerard, “International Organization: A State of the Art on the Art of the State,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 753–75; and offers a concrete rejoinder to Keohane's challenge for a demonstration of the value of the “sociological” approach of “reflectivist” scholars (which he opposes to the neopositivist models of rational actor theory in the study of norms and institutions). See Keohane, Robert, “International Institutions: Two Approaches,” in Keohane, , International Institutions and State Power (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1989), pp. 158–79.

61. From the large literature on the political, social, and moral status of technology, I will confine myself to noting Langdon Winner's summary in Autonomous Technology: Technics Out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977); George Grant's incisive essays in Technology and Empire (Toronto: Anansi, 1969) and Technology and Justice (Toronto: Anansi, 1986); and the essays in Darby, Tom, ed., Sojourns in the New World (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1986) and in Durbin, Paul, ed., Technology and Responsibility (Dordrecht, Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1987).

62. Keeley, “Towards a Foucauldian Analysis,” pp. 96–99.

63. A more comprehensive study is provided in Price, Richard, “A Genealogy of the Chemical Weapons Taboo” Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., 1994.

64. Although the ban was rejected by the U.S. delegation at both Hague conferences, the remarks of one member of the U.S. commission attests to the tentative emergence of a norm proscribing gas shells. As he noted, “a certain disposition has been observed to attach odium to the view adopted by this Commission in this matter.” See Scott, , Documents, p. 37.

65. On the emergence of the notion of a civilized family of nations, see Gong, Gerrit W., The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

66. See, for example, Times (London, 21–29 April 1915); and Read, James Morgan, Atrocity Propaganda: 1914–1919 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1941), pp. 195–96. While many argued that the use of CW was cruel, these arguments rarely compared the effects of CW with other weapons such as high explosives. This stands in contrast to the arguments of those who have opposed prohibitions on CW. This has been a consistent feature of the discourse on the legitimacy of CW.

67. See Ministry of Munitions, pt. 2 of “Chemical Warfare Supplies,” History of the Ministry of Munitions, vol. 11, The Supply of Munitions (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1921); Foulkes, C. H., Gas! The Story of the Special Brigade (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1934); and Haber, L. F., The Poisonous Cloud (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

68. Hanslian, Rudolf, Der Chemische Krieg (The chemical war) (Berlin: E.S. Mittler and Son, 1937), p. 20; and SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, p. 45. The French at first banned the use of shells containing phosgene and prussic acid (as did the British) and only permitted the former when the situation at Verdun appeared critical at the end of February 1916. The prussic acid ban was withdrawn later, the agent was employed for the first time by the French at the Somme on 1 July 1916. See Foulkes, , Gas, p. 305. While postwar accounts must be treated with due caution, it should be noted that the director of the French chemical services argued in 1919 that these shells were held in reserve until the Germans had used gas shells that had a toxicity comparable to phosgene—that is, until the Germans had violated the letter of the Hague declaration. See E. Vinet, “La Guerre de Gaz et les Travaux des Services Chimiques Francais” (The gas war and the operations of the French Chemical Service), Chemie et Industrie 2 (1 January 1919), p. 1403.

69. For evidence that nonuse of CW was the product of such a restraint, see Ministry of Munitions, The Supply of Munitions, pp. 10–11; Haber, , The Poisonous Cloud, pp. 224–25; Foulkes, , Gas, p. 296; and Brown, , Chemical Warfare, p. 45.

70. This view has been expressed by groups such as the American Legion and can be seen in Foulkes's rather enthusiastic assessments of gas as a weapon. See Congressional Record, 69th Congress, 2d sess., 10 11–6 12 1926 and 01 1927, vol. 68, pt. 1; and Foulkes, , Gas, respectively.

71. The quotation is from Thomas, Ann Van Wynen and Thomas, A. J., Legal Limits on the Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1970), p. 141.

72. The fact that violations often play a crucial role in the development of norms, as noted by Foucault, points to a difficulty of applying the positivist model of explanation to norms: a violation of a norm does not necessarily invalidate it. See Kratochwil, Friedrich and Ruggie, John Gerard, “International Organization: A State of the Art on the Art of the State,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 753–75.

73. U.S. Department of State, Conference on the Limitation of Armament (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1922), p. 730.

74. On Hughes's strategy, see Charles E. Hughes, “Possible Gains,” in American Society of International Law, Proceedings of the American Society of International Law (Washington, D.C.: American Society of International Law, 1927), pp. 117.

75. At least until 1992, when agreement was reached on the Chemical Weapons Convention.

76. Nietzsche, Friedrich, Human, All-Too-Human, trans. Faber, Marion with Lohmann, Stephen (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), p. 67.

77. Brown, , Chemical Warfare, p. 180. On these alarmist claims, see also Times (London), 3 April 1923, p. 7; SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, pp. 247–48; and U.S. Congress, Senate Special Committee Investigating the Munitions Industry, Munitions Industry: Hearings Before the Special Committee Investigating the Munitions Industry, 73rd Congress, 2d sess., 1935, pt. 11 and 12, pp. 2403–4 and 2470–71. For example, a New York Times headline (13 March 1921, p. 1) proclaimed “War's Newest and Deadliest Weapon; 3 Drops of Poison Kill Any One They Touch,” based on reports circulated by the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service.

78. The turnaround in assessments of gas warfare by these propagandists was remarkable. In contrast to earlier warnings of the catastrophic potential of CW, see the revised assessments by members of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in New York Times, 10 September 1926, p. 6; and 26 November 1926, p. 12. In a moment of unsurpassed irony, the president of the American Chemical Society declared that the widespread feeling against gas was the result of hysteria and propaganda. See New York Times, 11 December 1926, p. 3.

79. SIPRI, The Rise of CB Weapons, p. 247. See also Editorial, Times (London), 3 April 1923, p. 7; and Haber, , The Poisonous Cloud, pp. 288, 307, and 317. By 1927, a New York Times editorial (16 February 1927, p. 22) had dismissed the exaggerated fears of CW as “sheer romancing,” noting that the previous war had demonstrated that high explosives were far more destructive.

80. This argument parallels the case made by David Campbell that representations of “outside” threats are endemic to all states in the ongoing process of securing national identities. These depictions of danger are not simply the response to objective conditions but involve the interpretive scripting of danger through political discourse. See Campbell, David, Writing Security (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992).

81. Balfour is quoted in U.S. Department of State, Conference on the Limitation of Armament, p. 750.

82. The quotations are both from Ibid., p. 594.

83. Thus the United States pushed for the prohibition at the Washington conference of 1921–22 and the Geneva conference of 1925 even though it recognized that it “would undoubtedly give up a material advantage if gas warfare were abolished.” See U.S. Congress, Senate Subcommittee on Disarmament, Disarmament and Security: A Collection of Documents 1919–55. 84th Congress, 2d sess. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956), p. 701.

84. The rise of the society of states is associated with the work of Bull and Watson. See in particular Bull, Hedley, The Anarchical Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); and Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam, eds., The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

85. See Gong, The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society. On the history of the questioning and discrediting of the idea of war, see Mueller, John, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989).

86. Creveld, Van, Technology and War, p. 71.

87. O'Connell, Of Arms and Men.

88. See, for example, Anthony Eden's impassioned speech reported in the New York Times, 21 April 1936, p. 18.

89. For example, the U.S. military “denied that there were any lessons to be learned from the use of gas as a weapon of opportunity against a totally unprepared enemy in a colonial war.” See Brown, , Chemical Warfare, p. 145. For a similar German assessment, see Müller, Rolf-Dieter, “World Power Status Through the Use of Poison Gas? German Preparations for Chemical Warfare 1919–1945,” in Deist, Wilhem, ed., The German Military in the Age of Total War (Warwickshire, England: Berg Publishers, 1985), pp. 171209.

90. Quester, George, Deterrence Before Hiroshima (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1986), p. 78. Thus, while reports of Japan's use of CW against the Chinese were ignored, even the suggestion that CW was being contemplated in Spain drew preemptory attention from Britain. The use of tear gas by government forces was reported and the insurgents claimed that they, too, had gas but “refuse to break the international law which forbids its use.” See Times (London), 19 08 1936, p. 10. In response, Britain sent its diplomats to investigate these allegations and convey the grave consequences that might follow from the use of gas even in reprisal. See Times (London) 8 09 1936, p. 12.

91. Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday. Similarly, Fukuyama has drawn a sharp distinction between the power politics behavior of the Third World and peaceful relations among industrial democracies—the historical and posthistorical parts of the world. See Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). See also Doyle, Michael, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs,” pt. 1 and 2, Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (Summer and Fall 1983), pp. 205235 and 323–353; and Goldgeier, James and McFaul, Michael, “A Tale of Two Worlds: Core and Periphery in the Post–Cold War Era,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 467–91.

92. And, as Adas has demonstrated, it was the level of technological sophistication—rather than race, religion, morality, or other factors—that served as the chief standard by which the West judged the degree of civilization of other societies. See his exhaustive account in Adas, Michael, Machines as the Measure of Men (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989).

93. Giornale d'Italia (Italy) as reported in New York Times, 4 July 1935, p. 1. See also Amy Gurowitz, “The Expansion of International Society and the Effects of Norms,” manuscript, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., 1993.

94. See “Paper Interviews Aziz on Kurds, Other Issues,” Kuwait AL-QABAS, 31 October 1988 (in Arabic), Foreign Broadcast Information Service(FBIS ), 2 November 1988, p. 27; and “WAKH Reports Khayrallah 15 September Press Conference,” Manama WAKH, 15 September 1988 (in Arabic), FRIS 16 September 1988, pp. 23–24.

95. For examples see the German accounts as reported in “Through German Eyes,” Times (London), 29 04 1915, p. 6 from which the quotation is drawn; and Garner, James, International Law and the World War (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1920), pp. 274–76.

96. Congressional Record, 69th Congress, 2d sess., vol. 68, pt. 1, p. 150.

97. As stated by a U.S. senator, “We all know that any proliferation of nuclear weapons threatens humanity. Now we are learning that for other, less costly, easier-to-make weapons, far less sophistication is required, although they may pose a threat approaching the horror of nuclear war and nuclear arms. That is why some are calling chemical and biological weapons the poor man's atomic bomb.” U.S. Congress, Chemical Warfare: Arms Control and Nonproliferation: Joint Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Subcommittee on Energy, Nuclear Proliferation and Government Processes, 98th Congress, 2d sess., 28 06 1984, p. 34.

98. New York Times, 2 July 1988, p. A3.

99. “Paris Paper Interviews Aziz on Chemical Weapons,” Baghdad INA, 18 January 1989 (in Arabic) Near East and Southeast Asia, in FBIS 19 01 1989, p. 21.

100. United Nations, United Nations Disarmament Yearbook, vol. 14 (New York: United Nations, 1989), chap. 11.

101. Morel, Pierre, “The Paris Conference on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Disarmament 12 (Summer 1989), pp. 127–44.

102. Quoted from Ezz, Esmat, “The Chemical Weapons Convention: Particular Concerns of Developing Countries,” Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs (Cambridge, Mass.: Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, 1989), p. 216.

103. As one author has remarked, “The major nations' unwillingness to eliminate their nuclear weapons while resisting further chemical (and nuclear) proliferation is seen in some Third World nations as the height of hypocrisy. It sends a message that the lesser nations aren't mature enough for the most powerful of military capabilities.” See Utgoff, Victor A., “Neutralizing the Value of Chemical Weapons: A Strong Supplement to Chemical Weapons Arms Control,” in Krause, Joachim, ed., Security Implications of a Global Weapons Ban (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), p. 97. See also Kemp, Geoffrey, “The Arms Race after the Iran-Iraq War,” in Karsh, Efraim, ed., The Iran-Iraq War (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), pp. 269–79.

104. Morel, “The Paris Conference on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” p. 142.

105. Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” pp. 85–86. See also Scott, James, Domination and the Arts of Resistance (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990).

106. Indeed, high-precision conventional munitions had been defined as weapons of mass destruction in Soviet military literature of the 1980s. See Stephen R. Covington, “The Evolution of Soviet Thinking on the Utility of Chemical Warfare in a Major European Armed Conflict,” in Krause, , Security Implications of a Global Chemical Weapons Ban, pp. 910.

107. Boston Globe, 17 February 1991, p. 20.

108. This is not to say, however, that the view has not been expressed privately in the developing world—though not in official public discourse—that to die by chemical weapons is neither more nor less horrible than to die by bullet or flame. See, for example, the testimony of Brad Roberts in U.S. Congress, Chemical Warfare. Arms Control and Nonproliferation: Joint Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Subcommittee on Energy, Nuclear Proliferation, and Government Processes, 98th Congress, 2d sess., 28 06 1984. pp. 60–61.

109. Nina Tannenwald and Richard Price, “Norms and Deterrence: The Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Taboos,” paper presented at a Social Science Research Council/MacArthur conference entitled, “Norms and National Security,” Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., 7–8 October 1994.

110. Leonard, James F., “Rolling Back Chemical Proliferation,” Arms Control Today 22 (10 1992), pp. 1318.

111. At the time of writing, 157 nations had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.

112. Lapid, Joseph, “The Third Debate: On the Prospects of International Theory in a Post–positivist Era,” International Studies Quarterly 33 (09 1989), pp. 235–54.

113. See Wendt, “Anarchy is What States Make of It.’

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed