A New Arms Race?: Explaining Recent Southeast Asian Military Acquisitions
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 32, Number 1, April 2010
- pp. 50-69
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There is growing concern that Southeast Asia is in the midst of a regional arms race. Certainly many nations in the region have been on a veritable "shopping spree" for advanced conventional weaponry, and this has been enabled by a corresponding increase in military spending. However, these acquisitions do not fit the pattern of an "arms race" as laid out in prevailing theory: mutually adversarial relationships, explicit tit-for-tat arms acquisitions, the intention of seeking dominance over one's rivals through arming and intimidation, etc. Additionally, the actual numbers of arms being acquired are, for the most part, relatively small. That said, the regional re-arming process is significant in that the types of arms being acquired go beyond the "mere modernization" of regional armed forces and could greatly change the nature and character of potential regional conflicts. The resulting arms competition, or "arms dynamic", has at least the potential to contribute to a classical "security dilemma", a situation whereby actions taken by a country can actually undermine the security and stability that they were meant to increase.