Arms Control and Peace Research

"Arms Control and Peace Research," The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 1979.


The juxtaposition of the two notions arms control and peace  research may at first sight surprise the reader. The first notion  implies theoretical and practical research into the ways first, of  reducing the risk of war, and nuclear war in particular; second,  of reducing devastation if in spite of everything war were to  break out; and third, of reducing the cost of armaments and slowing down the arms race. The second notion encompasses all studies relating to the causes of wars and, in more general terms,  all the situations and practices dangerous to peace. The classical period of arms control, a conception of American origin, occurred during the later 1950’s and the early 1960’s.

It developed in response to the strategic and technical studies carried out on nuclear arms and their impact on diplomacy and war.  The peace research institutes which proliferated mainly during the  1960’s were often in opposition to the American institutes, which  concentrated chiefly on nuclear weapons and strategy. The research centres which use the word ‘peace’ in their titles do not  limit their focus to the two European blocs, to American and  Soviet strategy, or to nuclear weapons. The inequality among  nations and the world economic order also come under their  scrutiny insofar as they are causes of conflict, and at any event manifestations of violence – ‘structural violence,’ as the adherents of this school choose to call it.