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Arms Control andWorld Order Hedley Bull I O u r present theory and practice of arms control rests on a set of assumptions-sometimes explicit, more often implicit-as to what kind of world order is desirable and feasible. It is inevitable that this should be so, for to raise questions about the quality and quantity of arms that should exist in international society, about who should possess them, where they should be deployed, for what objectives and in what ways they should be used, is to raise questions about the political structure of the world and the distribution of power within it. But the set of assumptions about world order which at present underlies the enterprise of arms control commands little support outside the circle of the United States and the Soviet Union and their closest allies. This is in itself sufficient reason for raising the questions with which this essay is concerned, viz. 1.What assumptions concerning a desirable and feasible world order are implicit in our present theory and practice of arms control? 2. What assumptions about world order should inform our approach to arms control? 3. Given answers to the above questions, what consequences follow for arms control policy? Present Theory and Practice By "our present theory and practice" I mean the body of theoretical writings about arms control that arose in the West in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the body of unilateral policies, tacit understandings and formal agreements, chiefly involving the United States and the Soviet Union, that have grown up about arms control since that time. What we should notice about this theory and practice is the extent to which it assumes or implies that world order can and should be founded upon the present political structure of the world and the existing distribution of power within it. First, there is the definition of arms control itself: "Arms control in its broadest sense comprises all those acts of military policy in which antagonistic states cooperate in the pursuit of common purposes even while they are struggling in the pursuit of conflicting ones."' When two antagonistic states pursue common purl . Hedley Bull, "Introduction to the Second Edition," The Control of the Arms Race (New York: Praeger,1965),p. xiv. Hedley Bull is Professor of International Relations, Australian National University, Canberra, and Visiting Fellow 1975-1976 All Souls College, Oxford. 3 1 4 lnternational Security poses in their military policy-as the United States and the Soviet Union have sometimes done-these purposes may be universal ones, accepted as valid by international society as a whole, but they may also be purely bilateral ones, the special purposes of the cooperating powers themselves. "If two states," I wrote in 1964, "were to achieve their common goals in this field by bringing about the ruin of other nations there would seem no reason to deny that what they were engaged in was arms control, except for the common but quite unnecessary assumption that arms control has about it an aura of spiritual rectitude, instead of being a temporal process like any other."2 Our present definition of arms control does not in itself entail any bias either for or against the present political structure of the world. But there is a tendency in present-day thinking to regard cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union as the chief embodiment of arms control, to see in the field of relations between these two powers both the principal dangers with which arms control has to contend and the principal means of coping with them. While (as I shall argue) Soviet-American cooperation in arms control serves universal purposes it inevitably serves special or bilateral purposes also. These special or bilateral purposes reflect the preference of the two great powers for a world order in which they continue to enjoy a privilegedposition. Secondly, there are the objectives proclaimed for arms control. These are taken to be primarily concernedwith security: to make war, and especially nuclear war, less likely, and to make it less catastrophic in terms of death and destruction, if it should occur. A secondary objective is taken to be to reduce the economic costs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 3-16
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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