Arms race

Arms race

The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for real or apparent military supremacy. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation.

Examples of arms races

* The period preceding World War I, when Germany, Britain, France and Italy were competing to build the most powerful battleship. Lewis Fry Richardson made an arms race model, trying to retrodict World War I, where he showed how two countries would go to war if more money was spent in the arms race than in trade.Fact|date=June 2007
* At the geopolitical level of the 20th century, the United States and the Soviet Union developed more and better nuclear weapons during the Cold War (see: nuclear arms race). Immediately after World War II, the United States was behind the Soviet Union in the area of intermediate range missiles, but they managed to catch up with the help of German scientists. The Soviet Union committed their command economy to the arms race and, with the deployment of the SS-18 in the late 1970s, achieved first strike parity. However, the strain of competition against the great spending power of the United States created enormous economic problems during Mikhail Gorbachev's attempt at konversiya, the transition to a consumer based, mixed economy, and hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union. Because the two powers were competing with one another instead of aiming for a predefined goal, both nations soon acquired a huge capacity for overkill.

Other uses

More generically, the term "arms race" is used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors. An arms race may also imply futility as the competitors spend a great deal of time and money, yet end up in the same situation as if they had never started the arms race.An evolutionary arms race is a system where two populations are evolving in order to continuously one-up members of the other population.For example, a predator / prey arms-race involves predators evolving more effective means to catch prey while their prey evolves more effective means of evasion.This is related to the Red Queen effect, where two populations are co-evolving to overcome one another but are failing to make absolute progress.

In technology, there are close analogues to the arms races between parasites and hosts, such as the arms race between computer virus writers and antivirus software writers, or spammers against Internet service providers and E-mail software writers.

ee also

*Cold War
*Missile Technology Control Regime
*Space Race


* Richard J. Barnet: "Der amerikanische Rüstungswahn." Rowohlt, Reinbek 1984, ISBN 3-499-11450-X de_icon
* Jürgen Bruhn: "Der Kalte Krieg oder: Die Totrüstung der Sowjetunion." Focus, Gießen 1995, ISBN 3-88349-434-8 de_icon

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • arms race — (n.) 1930, in reference to naval build ups, from arms (see ARM (Cf. arm) (n.2)) + RACE (Cf. race) (n.1). First used in British English …   Etymology dictionary

  • arms race — n [C usually singular] the competition between different countries to have a larger number of powerful weapons ▪ the nuclear arms race …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • arms race — arms′ race n. cvb gov mil competition between countries for superiority in quantity and quality of military arms • Etymology: 1935–40 …   From formal English to slang

  • arms race — arms ,race noun count usually singular competition between countries to increase the number or power of their war weapons …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • arms race — ► NOUN ▪ a situation in which nations compete for superiority in the development and accumulation of weapons …   English terms dictionary

  • arms race — noun a competition between nations to have the most powerful armaments • Hypernyms: ↑race * * * competition between countries to achieve superiority in quantity and quality of military arms. [1935 40] * * * arms race noun Competition among… …   Useful english dictionary

  • arms race — n. 1) to accelerate, step up the arms race 2) to curb the arms race * * * step up the arms race to accelerate to curb the arms race …   Combinatory dictionary

  • arms race — UK / US noun [countable, usually singular] Word forms arms race : singular arms race plural arms races competition between countries to increase the number or power of their weapons of war …   English dictionary

  • arms race — N SING An arms race is a situation in which two countries or groups of countries are continually trying to get more and better weapons than each other. ...a conference on ways to control the arms race in the region …   English dictionary

  • arms race — noun (countable usually singular) the attempt by different countries to produce powerful weapons: the nuclear arms race …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English