Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are commonly lumped together as WMD. Such conflation is dangerous and misleading, rendering the term vulnerable to political manipulation. WMD language obscures the paramount threat of nuclear weapons, exaggerates the destructive power of chemical weapons, and is unhelpful or counterproductive when used in the context of biological weapons. In her response – the article entitled ‘The Long Goodbye: Beyond an Essentialist Construction of WMD’ (this journal), Michelle Bentley argues against adopting an essentialist understanding of WMD and poses the question: how do you convince political actors to discard a concept so useful to them? This reply highlights limitations to the political construction of meaning. Readers of this exchange should come away more hesitant about employing WMD language. Some might feel confirmed in their view that the political utility of this term – founded on apocalyptic vagueness – will endure for a long time. Subscribers to either perspective should agree that academics – as builders, users, and shapers of language – have a role to play in the important business of abandoning this troublesome term.
Contemporary Security Policy Journal
The Unfinished Business of Abandoning WMD: A Reply to Bentley
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