Learning from the Arms Control Experience   [open pdf - 236KB]

Arms control and disarmament policy became an integral part of America's national defense strategy during the Cold War. The implementation of that policy brought with it into the security arena a number of environmental issues. In some instances, addressing environmental concerns was a major goal of our arms control agenda, as in the treaty banning environmental modification as a method of warfare (U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 1996). In other cases, environmental problems presented challenges to the achievement of other goals, as in the obstacles created by clean air standards to the rapid elimination of ballistic missiles required by new treaties. The environmental consequences of conflict were also a matter of debate within the arms control community: for example, the fear that a "nuclear winter" could follow a global war, the controversy over use of defoliants in counter-insurgency operations, and the uncertainty about regional consequences of Saddam Hussein's burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields during the Gulf War. Environmental degradation was increasingly seen also as a cause of conflict or a hindrance to peace. Concerns that environmental threats might undermine negotiations led to considerable parallelism in the Multilateral Middle East Peace Process as the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group found itself following closely developments in the working groups dealing with water, refugees, and economics. As we consider suggestions that our notions of international security be broadened or enhanced to include a greater centrality for environmental issues, insights can be gained from recent arms control experience. In part, that experience places before us case studies of the national security establishment coming to grips with environmental questions. Perhaps of even greater value is the recognition that the arms control policy process, with themes, institutions, and individuals mirroring and even overlapping those involved in the environmental policy process, has debated many of the same issues now central to the question of what is "environmental security." Thus, one can gain some insight into the role environmental issues play in national security by looking at the arms control experience. In the process, thinking about what is meant by "environmental security" may be clarified.

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Environmental Threats and National Security: An International Challenge to Science and Technology: Proceedings from the Workshop at Monterey, California, December 1996
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