The Control of the Arms Race: Disarmament and Arms Control in the Missile Age

By Hedley Bull; Richard Goold-Adams | Go to book overview

I
THE OBJECTIVES OF ARMS CONTROL

IT is commonly assumed that the only important questions that arise in connection with disarmament or arms control concern how it may be brought about. But the question must first be asked, what is it for? Unless there can be some clear conception of what it is that disarmament or arms control is intended to promote, and to what extent and in what ways it is able to do so, no disciplined discussion of this subject can begin.

The demand for disarmament is not always accompanied by any close definition of the objectives it might promote, or by any recognition of conflict among these objectives, in cases where this exists. The greater part of what has been said about disarmament is the product of public movements of agitation and protest against governments for their failure to disarm; or the product of official pronouncements designed to allay such protest, or to exonerate the government at home and direct the protest towards governments abroad. It is not to be expected of protest movements or of governments that, in their pronouncements about disarmament, they will set more store on precision of expression and the recognition of difficulty and complexity than on the political effects these pronouncements will have. Nor, having regard for the essential character of protest movements about disarmament and of government disarmament policies, and for what they are intended to achieve, is it any reproach to them that they do not.

There may be distinguished, however, three main grounds upon which disarmament or arms control has been held to be desirable. The first ground is that disarmament contributes to international security: that armaments, or particular kinds or levels of armaments, or armaments races, are a cause of war, which disarmament or arms control will remove ('stop the drift to war'). The second ground is that it releases economic resources: that armaments, or armaments races, are economically ruinous or profligate, and that disarmament or arms control would make possible the diversion of resources now squandered in armaments into other and worthier channels ('reduce the burden of armaments').

-3-

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