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Weapons Proliferation: Concerns & Actions

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  • 0:01 The Start of Weapons…
  • 0:58 Reasons for Weapons…
  • 2:34 Types of Weapons Proliferation
  • 3:38 Combating Weapons…
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson will cover the increase in weapons production worldwide, as well as the concerns and actions the global community has in response. A short quiz will follow the lesson.

The Start of Weapons Proliferation

Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was famous for stating the quote, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' The thought behind this quote was that the mere presence of having a big stick would dissuade others from attacking you or would persuade others into giving you what you wanted.

However, the problem becomes that if a few countries start getting 'big sticks,' then others may feel threatened and want 'big sticks' of their own. This is because many countries embrace a worldview that places a constant struggle for power and dominance as necessary. This constant competition for power among groups and nation-states essentially guaranteed the proliferation, or rapid increase, of weapons. Therefore, these 'sticks' started to take the form of guns, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

In this lesson, we will take a look at the reasons behind and types of weapons proliferation, along with how it is combated.

Reasons for Weapons Proliferation

The competition for power and dominance and the resulting increase in weapons carries with it some important strategic, economic, and political motivations. During the Superpower rivalry during the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union produced a massive amount of weapons in an attempt to intimidate the other, and even provided weapons to their own allied countries so that they could defend themselves if need be.

A wish to maintain a regional balance of power is another reason for the increase in weapons production. Arms sales are often defended on the grounds that such transfers contribute to regional stability and diminish the likelihood of war, which does seem counterintuitive in some sense.

There may also be political, military, and economic leveraging at stake, as well. For instance, the United States depends on oil from the Middle East, and the United States may provide weapons to some of these countries not only so that these countries can defend themselves, but it also creates a relationship where the United States is able to gain and maintain access to other parts of the country's political, military, and economic elites.

Economic factors also influence some countries to produce arms either to gain resources to build bigger weapons or to finance other things in the state. Many countries may develop their own weapons to preserve their independence, which is known as self-reliance. Conversely, oppression by authoritarian governments who want to keep their people from gaining independence may also rely on weapons and military force to keep their control.

Types of Weapons Proliferation

While a bully on a playground may threaten others with his fists, other nation-states use much more dangerous weapons to intimidate others. The first type of weapons includes small arms, which would include guns, grenades, and assault rifles. These weapons are seen the most in countries with intense ethnic conflicts and areas where gang warfare is a problem.

Nuclear weapons are probably the largest and most destructive of all weapon types a country can create and potentially use. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union built up thousands of nuclear weapons to try and intimidate the other. While the total number of nuclear weapons has decreased since the Cold War, there are now other countries that have the capability of producing nuclear weapons of their own.

Lastly, chemical weapons (for example, mustard gas used during WWI) and biological weapons (for example, anthrax) also threaten the security of others; they are now mainly used by non-state-sponsored terrorist groups.

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