An extended thought on arms races

Reading over my previous post on nuclear deterrence and President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review, I was immediately struck by the thought that it was incomplete. Part of the reason why I think nuclear weapons are becoming less important is because other technologies are becoming more important, or at least more relevant.

This world has already seen many arms races, and to-date the nuclear race has been the most important. But the arms race never stops. Nuclear weapons aren’t perfect weapons in the sense that they are relatively blunter and less precise than other technologies, or at least the promise of other technologies.

I suggest that while nuclear power will always be extremely relevant and nuclear weapons will remain the weapon of choice for ending the existence of all life on this planet, the true arms race has shifted to technologies that allow strategic micro-targeting. Predator drones represent but one facet of this direction; other directions include the military applications of sophisticated robotics, nano-technology, and bioengineering.

Perhaps one reason why America is willing to push for a nuclear-free world is because we are close to another game-changer, or because we already have one. In this world nuclear weapons don’t matter because other technologies provide effective countermeasures and the investment in nuclear weapons systems represent forgone opportunities to develop or build other technologies.

In any case, this is part of what I think the President’s Nuclear Posture Review signals.

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