The Tyranny of Experts: Analytic Misperception and the Rise of State-Run Biological Weapons Programs




Nordmann, Brian D.

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The purpose of this study is to understand some of the factors contributing to the rise of State-run Biological Weapons (BW) programs in the early 20th century. To some extent, the factors which spurred the development of BW and other forms of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the early part of the twentieth century are still in play today. Understanding these factors may help in efforts to “roll back” nascent WMD programs. The development of BW programs was driven not by military requirements but, rather, was the result of societal fears and ignorance, including xenophobia and racism. Fear and ignorance were fostered by a reliance on unchecked government leadership, unquestioned scientific authority, and misanalysis by the respective intelligence organizations – the “tyranny of experts.” The resulting build-up of a variety of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” culminated in the Cold War, the arms control rubric of “Trust, but Verify” (despite the great difficulty in monitoring any offensive BW program) and the current fear of jihadism and what is now termed the “Global War on Terrorism.”



Biodefense, Analytic Misperception, Biological Weapons, Intelligence Community