We are facing a threat that is catastrophic in its scale.1 The damage that even a single attack with weapons of mass destruction would wreak could run into the millions of lives, and do egregious damage to American economic, political, and social structures. There is no graver threat to the United States.
This threat is only going to get more serious. The progress of technology and the increasing interconnectedness of global systems are driving both productive and destructive power down, to lower and lower levels of agency, and outwards, to the fringes of society. Accelerating advances in computing, biotechnology, nanotechnology have democratized destructive power — up to the point at which a single individual may have the power to do enormous damage.2 Today we see this peril most plainly in the justified fears about the use of the first and greatest absolute weapon — the nuclear bomb. But the threat of biological and biotechnological weaponry, powered by the highly diffused and swiftly advancing progress of the life sciences, may be even graver. Similar dangers are growing in the fields of nanotechnology, computing, and the like. Web Link
The idea of collective retaliation is an old one. What was the bombing of Dresden about? The Japanese, who butchered civilians in Nanking and Manila knew all about collective punishment. And so did the Brits, who used poison gas and strafing runs against Iraqis in the pre-World War 2 years.
There is no way to prettify collective punishment. It is so unavoidable that deterrence -- the thing that kept the world in one piece from 1949 to 1989 -- was based on it.