The Chemical Weapons Taboo

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Cornell University Press, 1997 - Technology & Engineering - 233 pages

Richard M. Price asks why, among all the ominous technologies of weaponry throughout the history of warfare, chemical weapons carry a special moral stigma. Something more seems to be at work than the predictable resistance people have expressed to any new weaponry, from the crossbow to nuclear bombs. Perceptions of chemical warfare as particularly abhorrent have been successfully institutionalized in international proscriptions and, Price suggests, understanding the sources of this success might shed light on other efforts at arms control.To explore the origins and meaning of the chemical weapons taboo, Price presents a series of case studies from World War I through the Gulf War of 1990-1991. He traces the moral arguments against gas warfare from the Hague Conferences at the turn of the century through negotiations for the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. From the Italian invasion of Ethiopia to the war between Iran and Iraq, chemical weapons have been condemned as the "poor man's bomb." Drawing upon insights from Michel Foucault to explain the role of moral norms in an international arena rarely sensitive to such pressures, he focuses on the construction of and mutations in the refusal to condone chemical weapons.


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The chemical weapons taboo

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From the first sentence in the preface--"This book is a meditation on the relationship between morality and technology"--readers should be prepared more for a philosophical discussion than for hideous ... Read full review


The Origins of the Chemical Weapons Taboo
The Interwar Period
Colonizing Chemical Warfare
A Weapon of the Weak
On Technology and Morality
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (1997)

Richard M. Price is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is coeditor of The United Nations and Global Security.

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