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Arms control

From Academic Kids

Arms control is a broad term alluding to a range of political concepts and aims. In international affairs, arms control generally refers to limitations on the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation, and usage of weaponry. Arms control typically takes the form of multi-lateral efforts to agree to such limitations upon consenting participants in traties and agreements, although it can also include efforts by a nation or group of nations to enforce limitations upon a non-consenting country.

On a national or community level, arms control can amount to programs to control the access of citizens to weapons. This is often referred to as gun control, as firearms are the primary focus of such efforts in most places.

Contents

Enactment

While arms control is often seen as synonomous with disarmament, this is not always the case. Especially in international affairs, arms control often does not affect current weapons or force their demobilization, but instead limits future development, production, and use of weapons. Multi-lateral arms control treaties are often seen by participants as a way to avoid costly arms races which would prove counter-productive to national aims. Some are used as ways to stop the spread of certain military technologies (such as nuclear weaponry or missile technology) in return for assurances to potential developers that they will not be victims of those technologies. Additionally, some arms control agreements are entered in order to limit the damage done by warfare, especially to civilians and the environment, which is seen as bad for all participants regardless of who wins a war.

While arms control treaties are seen by many peace proponents as a key tool against war, by the participants, they are often seen as simply ways to limit the high costs of the development and building of weapons, and even reduce the costs associated with war itself. Arms control can even be a way of maintaining the viability of military action by limiting those weapons that would make war so costly and destructive as to make it no longer a viable tool for national policy.

Enforcement

Enforcement of arms control agreements has proven difficult over time. Most agreements rely on the continued desire of the participants to abide by the terms to remain effective. Usually, when a nation no longer desires to abide by the terms, they usually will seek to either covertly circumvent the terms or to simply end their participation in the treaty. This was seen in Washington Naval Treaty, where most participants sought to exceed the limitations, some more legitimately than others. The United States developed better technology to get better performance from their ships while still within weight limits, the United Kingdom exploited a loop-hole in the terms, the Italians misrepresented the weight of their vessels, and when up against the limits, Japan simply left the treaty. The nations which violated the terms of the treaty did not suffer great consequences for their actions. Within little more than a decade, the treaty was abandoned. The Geneva Protocol has lasted longer and been more successful at being respected, but still nations have violated it at will when they have felt the need. Enforcement has been haphazard, with measures more a matter of politics than adherance to the terms. This meant sanctions and other measures tended to be advocated against violators primarily by their natural political enemies, while violations have been ignored or given only token measures by their political allies.

More recent arms control treaties have included more stringent terms on enforcement of violations as well as verification. This last has been a major obstacle to effective enforcement, as violators often attempt to covertly circumvent the terms of the agreements. Verification is the process of determining whether or not a nation is complying with the terms of an agreement, and involves a combination of release of such information by participants as well as some way to allow participants to examine each other to verify that information. This often involves as much negotion as the limits themselves, and in some cases questions of verification have led to the breakdown of treaty negotiations (for example, verification was cited as a major concern by opponents of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ultimately not ratified by the United States).

Nations may remain in a treaty while seeking to break the limits of that treaty as opposed to simply withdrawing from it. This is for two major reasons. To openly defy an agreement, even if one withdraws from it, often is seen in a bad light politically and can carry diplomatic repercussions. Additionally, if one remains in an agreement, competitors who are also participatory may be held to the limitations of the terms, while withdrawl releases your opponents to make the same developments you are making, limiting the advantage of that development.

List of treaties and conventions related to arms control

Some of the more important international arms control agreements follow:

See also

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