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Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law

Nigel D. White

Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law provides a concise and insightful guide to the key principles of international law governing peacetime security, the use of force, conflict and post-conflict situations. Nigel D. White explores the complex legal regimes that have been created to control the level of armaments, to limit the occasions when governments can use military force to mitigate the conduct of warfare and to build peace.
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2 Arms control law

Nigel D. White


It was argued in Chapter 1 that the human survival instinct prevents most individuals from embarking on actions that could lead to their own destruction. Of course they may make misjudgements, but if humankind were driven in general by desire for destruction, we would not be here. Scaling this proposition up to the level of governments and states may seem simplistic, but even the most pragmatic and realist approaches to international law and international relations (for example, in the writings of Glennon and Waltz) recognise that states act out of self-interest and at the core of that is the survival of the state.1

The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that prevailed during the Cold War represented the bottom line for states’ desire for survival. In the period when MAD prevailed each superpower was restrained from using their WMD in the sure knowledge that such a precipitate action would not only lead to the destruction of their enemy but to their own destruction. States may make serious, even catastrophic, misjudgements about what they can achieve militarily – France’s invasion of Russia in 1812, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 each come to mind – but generally their survival instinct leads to more conservative calculations. Included in those calculations is some measure of arms control, especially of the most destructive weapons. Even during a period when there was an arms race between the superpowers, it was still possible to achieve some consensus...

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