Conventional arms control has struggled as a research program since the early days of the Cold War, when non-conventional weapons came to totally dominate the arms control landscape. Since that time, efforts to return conventional arms control to the International Relations agenda have faced a paradox: when there is no significant international conflict, it is assumed that current levels of conventional proliferation are not problematic, but when there is significant conflict calls for arms control or even simple export restraint tend to be drowned out by demands for more and better weapons systems. Critical Realism (CR) introduces new ways of looking at cause and effect that have great promise in terms of restoring conventional arms control to its rightful place in the hierarchy of policy issues. Three of the key ontological revelations that CR offers are an embrace of multiple causality, an alternative to the positivist belief that causal mechanisms cannot exist independently from our ability to measure them, and a focus on the emancipatory, rather than strictly predictive, role of theory. This paper explores these elements of CR and suggests how they can contribute to our understanding of the causes of conventional arms proliferation and the policy levers that may help to control it.
|Keywords:||Critical Realism, Conventional Arms, Conventional Weapons, Arms Control, Arms Trade, Proliferation|
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Intercultural Communications, Rikkyo University, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan
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