Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

When Are Arms Races Dangerous? Rational versus Suboptimal Arming

| Spring 2004


What causes arms races? Do arms races necessarily lead to war? Charles Glaser of the University of Chicago distinguishes between two kinds of arms races: those that are dangerous and those that are not. He offers a new perspective for assessing the consequences of arms buildups by posing a different question: Is an arms buildup the best way for a state to achieve security and to protect other vital interests? If a state’s international security environment requires an arms buildup, then arming, as well as the war the buildup might provoke, is the state’s best policy option. If, however, the state’s decision to engage in a buildup is poorly matched to its security environment, the buildup and any ensuing arms race will reduce the state’s security. It is these dangerous suboptimal races, asserts Glaser, that make war unnecessarily likely.


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For Academic Citation: Glaser, Charles L.. When Are Arms Races Dangerous? Rational versus Suboptimal Arming.” Quarterly Journal: International Security, vol. 28. no. 4. (Spring 2004):

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