Cascade of Arms: Managing Conventional Weapons Proliferation

By Van Nederveen, Gilles | Air & Space Power Journal, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Cascade of Arms: Managing Conventional Weapons Proliferation


Van Nederveen, Gilles, Air & Space Power Journal


Cascade of Arms: Managing Conventional Weapons Proliferation edited by Andrew J. Pierre. World Peace Foundation, One Eliot Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, 1997, 466 pages.

While the world at large and academic communities tend to focus on the proliferation of nuclear, biological, chemical, and missile technology, conventional arms are flooding into crisis and potential crisis areas faster than at any other time. The post-cold-war world has dramatically increased the number of exporters, and a new market for gray (e.g., nonstate) actors in this business has grown disproportionally. Basic military forces around the world remain conventionally armed, and with the advent of smarter, computer-driven weapons, the lethality of conventional weapons has dramatically increased. Thus, the focus of Cascade of Arms is on lethal, conventional, high-tech weaponry exported by countries that appear unable or unwilling to regulate themselves for economic reasons. The authors argue that with the end of the cold war, weapons exports no longer increase one's political advantage.

The book is organized into five parts. The first deals with the arms trade in a very general overview but examines important trends that followed the cold war and that emerged in the Persian Gulf War. Such trends include the increasing numbers of suppliers, the globalization of arms-producing industries, and the importance of dual-use technologies. There is also a chapter on the shadowy side of the arms trade, usually not covered in standard texts on the subject. It addresses black-market sales, secret procurement, and concealed sales. The book argues that these "other" sales supply many of the insurgent and ethnic wars currently raging around the globe.

The next part deals with how advanced, industrialized nations have to sell arms to keep their industries producing at an economically viable level and how developing nations are entering the armsproduction business and arms market. The production of arms in the third world has destabilized the global arms market, since export controls are nonexistent among these arms producers. A close examination of arms-sales policies and practices of the United States, Western Europe, Russia, and China is the subject of the next part. The United States has long been ambivalent about exporting conventional arms. Thus, the chapter revisits the Carter years to show that domestic policy considerations (i.e., jobs) have upset delicate international agreements but that other policies, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, have held and could serve as a useful model. The chapter also focuses on new, advanced technology that could be the subject of export restrictions in an attempt to stop its proliferation to the rest of the world.

In Europe, decreased domestic demand has forced arms exporters to seek markets outside their traditional markets. …

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