The Relative Efficacy of the Biological & Chemical Weapon Regimes


The biological and chemical weapon nonproliferation and disarmament regimes are often put forward as models of what the nuclear nonproliferation regime could (or should) be. But are these regimes effective? If so, is one stronger and/or more effective than the other? What is it that makes them relatively stronger than the nuclear nonproliferation regime? In this article, we return to and expand upon a framework for assessing regime health and effectiveness. We utilize this framework to engage in a comparative analysis of the chemical weapon (CW) and biological weapon (BW) nonproliferation regimes, respectively. Our analysis reveals that these two regimes are comparatively healthier than their nuclear counterpart. While some of their behavioral features might be troubling—such as the disputes over stockpile destruction of CW—these tend to be mitigated by the presence of a strong norm against possession and proliferation of both CW and BW. This norm is adequately embedded into the existing institutional features of the regimes in ways that do not exist in the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The Nonproliferation Review 21(1): 43–64

Additional published correspondence: J. Enia & J. Fields (2014) “Jason Enia and Jeffrey Fields Respond,” in response to M. Chevrier and J. Mackby, “A Worthy Endeavor with the Wrong Conclusion,” The Nonproliferation Review 21(2): 117–122.