Engineering is the branch of science that combines different concepts, principles, theories, and laws from different fields such as economics, social science, and practical knowledge in an effort to build, design, invent, develop, and improve something. Now this something may come in the form of buildings, devices, systems, machines, materials, and even processes. The truth about the matter is that engineering is a complicated field because it is highly broad. This can be evidenced by the fact that it has a lot of almost equally broad sub-branches.
There is mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, among others. The ones mentioned so far are only the main branches and there are a lot more specific branches that are named and regulated based on the specific branch of applied science being dealt with. The objective of this paper is to answer the question whether engineering or at least the accomplishments that have been made possibly for humans as a result of knowledge in engineering, can lead to mass destruction.
One thing that comes to mind whenever the terms engineering and mass destruction gets combined is the term weapons of mass destruction. As the name implies, weapons of mass destruction are weapons specifically engineered to lead to mass destruction. These are often unlike non-conventional weapons like guns that use bullets and tanks and ships that use cannons. There is a specific branch of engineering that focuses on these aspects and that specific branch is military engineering.
Military engineering is a loosely defined term that can be defined as the practice and art of conceptualizing, designing, building, and effectively using (including the maximization of the use and effect) of military works; it is also concerned with the maintenance of military support lines such as logistics supply chain management in times of war and relief works or basically in any operation where a country’s military forces may get involved.
So, the short answer to the question on whether engineering can lead to mass destruction is a yes because the truth about the matter is that humans now have access to the engineering devices, in the form of weapons that lead to mass destruction. The strongest governments such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan, and other member countries of the United Nations, are in fact, in a continuous effort to implement treaties and policies that are aimed at containing, if not completely eradicating the possibility that these engineering devices in the form of weapons can be used to cause mass destruction and loss of lives.
For a brief background on weapons of mass destructions or what is more popularly referred to in western media as WMD is a collective term to a group of weapons that include but may be limited to nuclear, chemical, radiologic, biologic, and other weapons that hold the capacity to bring significant damage, destruction, and harm, and in almost all cases, take a huge number of human lives and create great havoc in both man-made and natural structures . The potential amount of destruction that weapons of mass destruction can cause is dramatically and even exponentially greater (by several folds in fact) when compared to the potential amount of destruction that conventional military weapons—both of which are products of engineering, can bring.
It is also important to note that the use of the term WMD is something that is still being widely disputed . For example, there are arguments that suggest that countries like the United States are only using the term and its own operational definition of the term (i.e. WMD) to advance its political interests. In the case of its invasion of Iraq, for example, the casus belli or the reason for going into the war that it used (to justify going to war with a foreign country, something which is required in order to minimize the generation of impunity among neighboring countries, something which is more thoroughly studied in political science), was the “possibility” that the Iraqi president was holding a significant volume of weapons of mass destruction.
Now, it is important to note that when the American offensive was almost in its last phase and nearly all vital military complexes in the country (Iraq) have already been captured, the U.S. government failed to prove their claims suggesting that there were indeed WMDs in Iraq. Critics of the government such as those in opposition suggested began to suggest that the U.S. government was just using the possibility of having WMDs as a justification to advance its own political interests; some even went as far as saying that the way how it has defined the term WMD was erroneous because in reality, the United States government, through its own military force, can be charged with the same crime it is saying that the then Iraqi government has committed—the use of WMDs.
According to an editorial entry published in Forbes’ website, the United States have been on a continuous use of WMDs for a long time now; it has been using bombs, grenades, rockets having a propellant charge of more than four ounces; and missiles having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one quarter ounce, mines; and or “any device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses; or any type of weapon other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes by whatever known which will or which may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one half inch in diameter” .
If assessed carefully, there is indeed some sense to what Peck (2013) has suggested. In fact, in his editorial entry, he pointed out legal evidences suggesting that the weapons classified in the same source could in fact be classified as WMDs; after all, the WMDs that the U.S. initially categorized when they decided to bomb countries that allegedly hold such weapons carry a lot of similar characteristics with the weapons that they have been using for so many years, just like other countries.
In summary, all of these information that have been presented so far about the use of WMDs and the apparent disputes and debates on how they must be operationally defined can only be considered noises and complexities because the answer to the present research question remains the same: that engineering or at least the knowledge and things that humans have been able to obtain as a result of engineering, can lead to mass destruction. The very presence of the weapons that have been identified and briefly described in this paper serves as evidence and a concrete support to that answer.
Natural Resources Defense Council. (2015). Scientists' and Engineers' Pledge to Renounce Weapons of Mass Destruction. Natural Resources Defense Council.
Peck, M. (2013). 5 Weapons of Mass Destruction the U.S. Military Uses Every Day. Forbes.
Simons, L. (2002). Weapons of Mass Destruction. National Geographic.