The Prisoners of Insecurity: Nuclear Deterrence, the Arms Race, and Arms Control

By Bruce M. Russett | Go to book overview
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8
Arms Control
in Perspective

History is not events, but people. And it is not just people remembering, it is people acting and living their past in the present.

Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man


Early Arms-Control Efforts

The history of arms-control and disarmament efforts is checkered. Some have succeeded splendidly; others were merely paper agreements with the expectation of little real effect; still others were unambiguous failures.

The oldest arms-control agreement still in effect, and without doubt one of the most successful, is the Rush—Bagot Agreement signed between the United States and Great Britain on April 29, 1817. In it, both sides agreed to limit their naval forces on the Great Lakes to a few small revenue cutters. It was actually a disarmament agreement and not just arms control: Some of the naval vessels then on the lakes had been built there and were too big to be sailed out through the then-existing waterway; they had to be dismantled. The agreement formed the basis for the condition of 3000 miles of unfortified border that citizens of the United States and Canada now take for granted.

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