IN the manufacture of the machinery of war, man's ingenuity knows few
limits. Even now, he is capable of putting orbiting H-bombs into outer
space, ready to drop on signal. Tomorrow his navies may be prepared to
fight at sea with ships capable of speeds up to 100 knots; his armies
may be organized to battle on land with compact, radiation-proof
robots. Yet for all their terror, such weapons are not the most frightening in
the armory of the future. A new book titled Unless Peace Comes , written by 16 scientists and scholars from six different
countries, contends that man may soon be able to hurl nature itself at
his foes. He could flood coastal cities with tidal waves and unleash
uncontrollable hurricanes and earthquakes. A well-aimed,
chemical-tipped rocket could puncture the atmosphere's ozone shield,
loosing a flood of ultraviolet rays that would eventually kill all
exposed life below. Only slightly less devastating are the weapons of chemical and
biological warfare that are already within the reach of
contemporary warriors. Sophisticated and sinister, CBW can be waged in
many ways. There are gases that can incapacitate an opponent
temporarily or deal him a quick, mortal blow. A few pounds of LSD in a
city's water supply could theoretically send the entire population
helplessly tripping. Entire nations could be infected with strange,
drug-resistant diseases spread by a handful of immunized saboteurs. From the U.S. to Sweden to Taiwan, many nations are exploring the
potential of CBW, and Soviet scientists are perhaps the busiest in the
field. The Russian army has chemical-war fare specialists down to the
battalion level, and the Russians probably provided the lethal nerve
gas used by the Egyptians in Yemen last year. In a recent book, Chemical and Biological Warfare: America's Hidden
Arsenal , Seymour M. Hersh, a former A.P.
Washington correspondent, reckons that the U.S. Defense Department
allocates some $300 million a year for the development and production
of CBW weapons —three times the figure the Pentagon usually makes
public. Whatever the amount, it is known that the U.S. operates six
major CBW research, testing and manufacturing centers and regularly
farms out experimental projects to scores of private and university
labs. For Pentagon planners are convinced that the U.S. must have a
considerable CBW capability, if only as a deterrent. Chemical Flood. In existing American and foreign arsenals, there are no
deadlier weapons than nerve gases. Usually odorless and colorless, they
were accidentally discovered by German researchers in 1936 and were a
closely held secret until the end of World War II, when the Allies
captured Nazi stores. Releasing a flood of the body chemical
acetylcholine, which sets off muscle contractions, nerve gases cause
uncontrollable convulsions in their victims. By one scientist's
account, according to Hersh, “The pupils, bladder and alimentary canal
constrict, the penis erects, the tear and saliva glands secrete and the
heart slows.” The victim is generally asphyxiated.