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

By Hedley Bull | Go to book overview

10
ARMS CONTROL AND SURPRISE ATTACK

IF THERE are dangers to international security in the expansion of the number of nuclear powers, there are also dangers in the Soviet-Western arms race itself. Some of the most important of these arise from the place which is occupied in modern war by surprise attack. The likelihood of a premeditated war, still more of a war that is not premeditated, is greatly magnified by the capacity of each side to launch a devastating surprise assault and by the tremendous advantage which both sides believe would accrue in modern war to the power which strikes the first blow over the one which suffers it. If arms control arrangements are to be concerned with the immediate dangers that exist in the world now, as well as with prescribing the conditions under which they would not arise, this subject deserves the highest consideration.

What is the place of surprise attack in modern war? How does it affect international security? And what measures of arms control and strategy can place limits upon it?


i

A surprise attack is one which surprises the enemy. He may be caused a political surprise, at being attacked at all. Or he may be caused a military surprise, at the form the attack takes: by its timing, speed, size, concentration, the weapons it employs, the direction from which it comes or at which it is projected.

There is, of course, nothing new about surprise attack in either sense. Indeed, the frequency of its occurrence in recent history, especially the experience of both America and Russia in 1941 as victims of it, partly accounts for the importance that is attributed to it now. Furthermore, the importance of surprise attack is not confined to the sphere of strategic nuclear attack. Limited war as well as total war is conceived of as an exchange of sudden, devastating blows by the forces in readiness at the outset of the conflict. At both levels, the speed and destructiveness of modern weapons appear to facilitate military surprise, and the tendency to maintain forces in constant readiness, which reduces the

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