Arms race

Last updated
A pie chart showing global military expenditures by country for 2018, in US$ billions, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. 2018 Military Expenditures by Country.png
A pie chart showing global military expenditures by country for 2018, in US$ billions, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

An arms race, in its original usage, is a competition between two or more states to have the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce more weapons, larger military, superior military technology. International conflict specialist Theresa Clair Smith, defines the term as "the participation of two or more nation-states in apparently competitive or interactive increases in quantity or quality of war material and/or persons under arms." [1]

State (polity) organised community living under a system of government; either a sovereign state, constituent state, or federated state

A state is a political organization with a centralized government that maintains a monopoly by use of force within a certain geographical territory.

A weapon, arm or armament is any device that can be used with intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, and warfare. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target.

Military organized body primarily tasked with preparing for and conducting war

A military is an armed force typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, intended for warfare and other functions and tasks according to state interests and policies. The main functions of the militaries maintained by sovereign states are usually defined as defence of the state, its territory and population, deterrence, participation in different types of peacekeeping/multinational operations, and in some cases support to civilian institutions. Beyond that, the militaries can be employed in various sanctioned and not sanctioned activities within the state as: population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards, intelligence activities, law enforcement missions and guarding important areas and persons. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. For a nation's military may function as a discrete subculture within a larger civil society, through the development of separate infrastructures, which may include housing, schools, utilities, logistics, health and medical, law, food production, finance and banking.

Contents

The term is also used to describe any long-term escalating competitive situation where each competitor focuses on out-doing the others.

Examples

Pre-First World War naval arms race

The size and power of battleships grew rapidly before, during, and after World War I: a result of competitive shipbuilding among a number of naval powers, brought to an end by the Washington Naval Treaty Battleship building scatter graph 1905 onwards.png
The size and power of battleships grew rapidly before, during, and after World War I: a result of competitive shipbuilding among a number of naval powers, brought to an end by the Washington Naval Treaty

From 1897 to 1914, a naval arms race between the United Kingdom and Germany took place. British concern about rapid increase in German naval power resulted in a costly building competition of Dreadnought -class ships. This tense arms race lasted until 1914, when the war broke out. After the war, a new arms race developed among the victorious Allies, which was temporarily ended by the Washington Naval Treaty.

Anglo-German naval arms race early 20th-century arms race between the United Kingdom and Germany

The arms race between the United Kingdom and the German Empire that occurred from the last decade of the nineteenth century until the advent of World War I in 1914 was one of the intertwined causes of that conflict. While based in a bilateral relationship that had worsened over many decades, the arms race began with a plan by German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz in 1897 to create a fleet in being to force Britain to make diplomatic concessions; Tirpitz did not expect the Imperial German Navy to defeat the Royal Navy.

Dreadnought type of battleship

The dreadnought was the predominant type of battleship in the early 20th century. The first of its kind, the Royal Navy's Dreadnought, made such a strong impression on people's minds when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built subsequently were referred to generically as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as "pre-dreadnoughts". Dreadnought's design had two revolutionary features: an "all-big-gun" armament scheme, with more heavy-calibre guns than previous ships, and steam turbine propulsion. As dreadnoughts became a symbol of national power, the arrival of these new warships was a crucial catalyst in the intensifying naval arms race between the United Kingdom and Germany. With the launch of a single ship, Dreadnought, the scales of naval power were reset overnight. As a result, dreadnought races sprang up around the world, including in South America, during the lead up to World War I. Successive designs increased rapidly in size and made use of improvements in armament, armour, and propulsion throughout the dreadnought era. Within five years, new battleships had outclassed Dreadnought. These more powerful vessels were known as "super-dreadnoughts". Most of the original dreadnoughts were scrapped after the end of World War I under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but many of the newer super-dreadnoughts continued to be used throughout World War II. The only surviving dreadnought is USS Texas, located near the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.

Washington Naval Treaty treaty among the major nations that had won World War I

The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, the Four-Power Treaty, and the Nine-Power Treaty, was a treaty signed during 1922 among the major nations that had won World War I, which agreed to prevent an arms race by limiting naval construction. It was negotiated at the Washington Naval Conference, held in Washington, D.C., from November 1921 to February 1922, and it was signed by the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, and Japan. It limited the construction of battleships, battlecruisers and aircraft carriers by the signatories. The numbers of other categories of warships, including cruisers, destroyers and submarines, were not limited by the treaty, but those ships were limited to 10,000 tons displacement each.

In addition to the British and Germans, contemporaneous but smaller naval arms races also broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire; the Ottomans and Greece; France and Italy; the United States and Japan; and Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

South American dreadnought race naval arms race between Argentina, Brazil, and Chile in the early 1900s

A naval arms race among Argentina, Brazil and Chile—the most powerful and wealthy countries in South America—began in the early twentieth century when the Brazilian government ordered three dreadnoughts, formidable battleships whose capabilities far outstripped older vessels in the world's navies.

Nuclear arms race

A nuclear arms race developed during the Cold War, an intense period between the Soviet Union and the United States and some other countries. This was one of the main causes that began the cold war, and perceived advantages of the adversary by both sides (such as the "missile gap" and “bomber gap”) led to large spending on armaments and the stockpiling of vast nuclear arsenals. Proxy wars were fought all over the world (e.g. in the Middle East, Korea, Vietnam) in which the superpowers' conventional weapons were pitted against each other. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, tensions decreased and the nuclear arsenal of both countries were reduced.

Cold War State of geopolitical tension after World War II between powers in the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. A common historiography of the conflict begins with 1946, the year U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow cemented a U.S. foreign policy of containment of Soviet expansionism threatening strategically vital regions, and ending between the Revolutions of 1989 and the 1991 collapse of the USSR, which ended communism in Eastern Europe. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Other uses

More generically, the term "arms race" is used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors in rank or knowledge. An arms race may also imply futility as the competitors spend a great deal of time and money, yet end up in the same situation as if they had never started the arms race.

An evolutionary arms race is a system where two populations are evolving in order to continuously one-up members of the other population. This concept is related to the Red Queen's Hypothesis, where two organisms co-evolve to overcome each other but each fails to progress relative to the other interactant.

In evolutionary biology, an evolutionary arms race is a struggle between competing sets of co-evolving genes, traits, or species, that develop adaptations and counter-adaptations against each other, resembling an arms race. These are often described as examples of positive feedback. The co-evolving gene sets may be in different species, as in an evolutionary arms race between a predator species and its prey, or a parasite and its host. Alternatively, the arms race may be between members of the same species, as in the manipulation/sales resistance model of communication or as in runaway evolution or Red Queen effects. One example of an evolutionary arms race is in sexual conflict between the sexes, often described with the term Fisherian runaway. Thierry Lodé emphasized the role of such antagonistic interactions in evolution leading to character displacements and antagonistic coevolution.

In technology, there are close analogues to the arms races between parasites and hosts, such as the arms race between computer virus writers and antivirus software writers, or spammers against Internet service providers and E-mail software writers.

A computer virus is a type of malicious software that, when executed, replicates itself by modifying other computer programs and inserting its own code. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be "infected" with a computer virus.

Antivirus software computer software to defend against malicious computer viruses

Antivirus software, or anti-virus software, also known as anti-malware, is a computer program used to prevent, detect, and remove malware.

Internet service provider organization that provides access to the Internet

An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, non-profit, or otherwise privately owned.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972—2002) was an arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against ballistic missile-delivered nuclear weapons. Under the terms of the treaty, each party was limited to two ABM complexes, each of which was to be limited to 100 anti-ballistic missiles.

Nuclear disarmament act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons

Nuclear disarmament is the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons. It can also be the end state of a nuclear-weapons-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. The term denuclearization is also used to describe the process leading to complete nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear warfare conflict or strategy in which nuclear weaponry is used to inflict damage on an opponent

Nuclear warfare is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is used to inflict damage on the enemy. Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction; in contrast to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can produce destruction in a much shorter time and can have a long-lasting radiological warfare result. A major nuclear exchange would have long-term effects, primarily from the fallout released, and could also lead to a "nuclear winter" that could last for decades, centuries, or even millennia after the initial attack. Some analysts dismiss the nuclear winter hypothesis, and calculate that even with nuclear weapon stockpiles at Cold War highs, although there would be billions of casualties, billions more rural people would nevertheless survive. However, others have argued that secondary effects of a nuclear holocaust, such as nuclear famine and societal collapse, would cause almost every human on Earth to starve to death.

Pre-emptive nuclear strike

In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing side is left unable to continue war. The preferred methodology is to attack the opponent's strategic nuclear weapon facilities, command and control sites, and storage depots first. The strategy is called counterforce.

Mutual assured destruction

Mutual assured destruction or mutually assured destruction (MAD) is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence, which holds that the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy's use of those same weapons. The strategy is a form of Nash equilibrium in which, once armed, neither side has any incentive to initiate a conflict or to disarm.

Disarmament act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons

Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of weaponry. Disarmament is often taken to mean total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear arms. General and Complete Disarmament was defined by the United Nations General Assembly as the elimination of all WMD, coupled with the “balanced reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments, based on the principle of undiminished security of the parties with a view to promoting or enhancing stability at a lower military level, taking into account the need of all States to protect their security.”

World War III hypothetical global conflict that has yet to occur

World War III and the Third World War are names given to a hypothetical third worldwide large-scale military conflict subsequent to World War I and World War II. The term has been in use since at least as early as 1941. Some have applied it loosely to refer to limited or smaller conflicts such as the Cold War or the War on Terror, while others assumed that such a conflict would surpass prior world wars both in its scope and its destructive impact.

Brinkmanship extreme strategy

Brinkmanship is the practice of trying to achieve an advantageous outcome by pushing dangerous events to the brink of active conflict. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy, labour relations, and military strategy involving the threat of nuclear weapons, and high-stakes litigation.

Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation, through verbal communication. The term originates in the time of the Triple Entente and Entente Cordiale in reference to an easing of tensions between England and France who, subsequent to being commingled polities under Norman rule, were warring rivals for the better part of a millennium but pursuant to a policy of détente became enduring allies.

Nuclear arms race

The nuclear arms race was an arms race competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War. During this period, in addition to the American and Soviet nuclear stockpiles, other countries developed nuclear weapons, though none engaged in warhead production on nearly the same scale as the two superpowers.

United States and weapons of mass destruction

The United States is known to have possessed three types of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and biological weapons. The U.S. is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in combat, when it detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. It had secretly developed the earliest form of the atomic weapon during the 1940s under the title "Manhattan Project". The United States pioneered the development of both the nuclear fission and hydrogen bombs. It was the world's first and only nuclear power for four years (1945–1949), until the Soviet Union managed to produce its own nuclear weapon. The United States has the second largest number of deployed nuclear weapons in the world, after Russia.

China and weapons of mass destruction

The People's Republic of China has developed and possesses weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear weapons. The first of China's nuclear weapons tests took place in 1964, and its first hydrogen bomb test occurred in 1967. Tests continued until 1996, when China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). China has acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1984 and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997.

Canada and weapons of mass destruction

Canada has not officially maintained and possessed weapons of mass destruction since 1984 and, as of 1998, has signed treaties repudiating possession of them. Canada ratified the Geneva Protocol in 1930 and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1970, but still sanctions contributions to American military programs.

Magazine (artillery) place of storage for ammunition or other explosive material

Magazine is the name for an item or place within which ammunition or other explosive material is stored. It is taken originally from the Arabic word "makhāzin" (مخازن), meaning storehouses, via Italian and Middle French.

Able Archer 83 is the codename for a command post exercise carried out in November 1983 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As with Able Archer exercises from previous years, the purpose of the exercise was to simulate a period of conflict escalation, culminating in the US military attaining simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack. Coordinated from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) headquarters in Casteau, Belgium, it involved NATO forces throughout Western Europe, beginning on November 7, 1983, and lasting for five days.

Nuclear weapons of the United States United States arsenal

The United States was the first country to manufacture nuclear weapons and is the only country to have used them in combat, with the separate bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Before and during the Cold War, it conducted over a thousand nuclear tests and tested many long-range nuclear weapons delivery systems.

Nuclear triad

A nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles. Specifically, these components are land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. The purpose of having this three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack. This, in turn, ensures a credible threat of a second strike, and thus increases a nation's nuclear deterrence. The main theory of creating the nuclear triad was to spread the assortment of weapons across various platforms, making military forces more likely to survive an attack and able to respond to a first strike successfully. The military strategy of distributing weapons over the three platforms developed as an answer to countries' concerns when surviving a nuclear strike. This would ensure that nuclear forces could survive a first strike and be deployed in a retaliatory strike, resulting in "mutual assured destruction."

Dangerous Capabilities: Paul Nitze and the Cold War is a biography of Paul Nitze, the Cold War strategist and diplomat. It was published by HarperCollins in 1990 and written by David Callahan.

References

  1. Smith, Theresa Clair (1980). "Arms Race Instability and War". Journal of Conflict Resolution. 24 (2): 253–284. doi:10.1177/002200278002400204.

Literature