Can Arms Races Lead to the Outbreak of War?
The possible relationships of an arms race to the outbreak of war are treated in the framework of a dynamic model of a missile war that could be used by defense planners to simulate the outbreak of war between two nuclear nations. It is shown that, depending on the initial and final configuration of weapons on both sides, an arms race could lead not only to war but to peace. Conversely, a disarming race could lead not only to peace but to war. The analytic framework is also applied to a qualitative arms race to show that such a race can promote crisis instability. These results are applied both to questions of disarmament and arms control and to the U.S.-Soviet postwar arms race. A conclusion of this analysis is that the quantitative U.S.-Soviet arms race of the 1960s and 1970s not only reduced the chances of war outbreak but also provided insurance against qualitative improvements in weapons.