– useful only for committing war crimes and acts of genocide. It is easy to forget that Hitler had huge stocks of chemical weapons he never used in combat. Understanding the realities about and behind ABC weapons is useful for any game designer or writer who is interested in realism -- and for anyone who wants to understand modern politics and military matters.
His only successful deployments were in committing acts of genocide.
Saddam Hussein had significant stocks from time to time, yet as the war
crimes trials in Iraq noted, the only significant use his government
ever got of them was in committing acts of genocide.
The Taliban and the Russians both had access to the same chemical
weapons. Neither got any significant use out of them at all. And as for
the nerve gas assault on the Tokyo subway that made the news? The gas
used is flammable and killed fewer people than if they had just lit the
canisters on fire and thrown them into the crowd.
Part of the problem is the threshold – you usually don’t buy the
weapons off the rack like you would with guns and bullets and anti-tank
weapons (just visit Armada International — www.armada.ch — to read
reviews of MBTs, coastal diesel submarines, etc. to get an idea of what
is being sold “off the rack” to governments).
Thus, to begin with, you have to develop a chemical agent. Once you
have one, you have to figure out how to deliver it. Both tasks take
about ten years and developing delivery systems only works after you
have the weapon. Then, after the twenty year lead, you have to find a
way to deploy them effectively.
rub comes in at every level. First, there are lots of poisons, but
developing one that you can make, store and use takes more effort than
you would expect. Then, there is deployment. Nerve gas seems pretty
simple. But as the Tokyo subway incident shows, getting it to actually
affect anyone is harder than it looks.
An acquaintance of mine, who specializes in ABC weapons and
disarmament said she told her husband to only get her out of the shower
next time when it was a “real” attack, once she saw the fatality numbers
She referred to it as the pseudo-Sarin attack (it may have been nerve
gas in canisters, but a real weapon would have killed thousands, not a
couple score of people). Finally, there is the issue of getting the
targets to sit still for the weapon’s use.
Not that there is not a huge market. The United States manufactures,
uses, and sells more nerve gas products than the rest of the world
combined. They are called “insecticide” and on a perfect day, against
insects who don’t move out of the way, they work pretty well. But as
many dictators have discovered, to use them against people you basically
need to be able to line the people up in controlled areas using
By the time you are able to successfully use poison gas against them
you could have already shot them hours (or days) before. Anything else
in the way of targets and the wind blows your gas away, or on your own
troops (the Russians, when doing maneuvers and training with fully
geared and protected troops, considered 15% casualties in the practice
troops a success).
The problems are severe enough that the end of Hitler’s war saw the
Germans unwilling to use the stockpiled chemical agents. The benefit was
never as great as the downside even when the downside was complete and
Next I’ll cover Biological Weapons –
good for shooting yourself in the foot and nuclear weapons – or a way
to pay five times as much for half the result. Then we can move on to
other topics, like why it is better to defend than attack, and other
military facts. But if you have questions about WMDs, why people are so
emotional about them, or why they are so useless, I’ll be glad to talk