Arms Control Policy: A Guide to the Issues

Arms Control Policy: A Guide to the Issues

Arms Control Policy: A Guide to the Issues

Arms Control Policy: A Guide to the Issues

Synopsis

In this work, an expert on biological weapons offers a thoughtful examination of the political and technical issues that have affected the implementation of arms control agreements from the 1960s to the present.

Excerpt

Prohibiting the possession and use of weapons, or limiting the size and makeup of weapon arsenals, has been a feature of international relations for centuries. During the Middle Ages, for example, Pope Innocent the II banned the use of the crossbow by Christians against other Christians in Europe’s seemingly endless wars. Nevertheless, the scale of warfare that the world witnessed in the 20th century, together with the development of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, provided a profound impetus to search for new ways to control weaponry. For the first time, nations had the capacity to destroy all human life.

Even before the use of nuclear weapons, modern war was so deadly and destructive that nations felt the need to limit weapons of war. During World War I, approximately 10 million soldiers and nearly 7 million civilians were killed. Despite international efforts to fulfill the desire for WWI to be the war to end all wars, less than 30 years later, World War II claimed the lives of more than 60 million people—and more civilians than military personnel perished. WWI brought the horror of poison to the fighting as first the German army and later the members of the Triple Entente, mainly France and Great Britain and later the United States rained down noxious gases on the battlefields of Europe.

Although accurate accounts of civilian deaths in WWII cannot be calculated, the estimates are staggering; they range from 30 million to more than 49 million. Moreover, the effects of weapons used in WWII did not end with the defeat of the Axis Powers. When the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the longterm effects of radiation poisoning on its victims and successive generations, as the result of genetic damage, were unknown.

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