foreseeable uses of its results implicate the ethical principles underlying international human rights law and/or the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

4.3.3 Arms Control Treaties

The theory underlying arms control agreements is that such agreements could serve three broad purposes in principle:29

Reducing the likelihood that conflict will occur. Confidence-building measures—arrangements in which the involved parties agree to refrain from conducting certain activities that might be viewed as hostile or escalatory, to notify other signatories prior to conducting such activities, or to communicate directly with each other during times of tension or crisis—are supposed to reduce the likelihood of conflict due to accident or misunderstanding.

Reducing the destructiveness of any conflict that does occur. Limitations or bans on the use of certain weapons, or on the types of entities that may be targeted, could have such effects, thereby reducing the likelihood of conflict escalation or facilitating more rapid cessation of hostilities. One important aspect of reducing destructiveness is reducing unnecessary destructiveness—a point related to the principle that weapons should not cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.

Reducing financial costs. Limitations on acquisition of weapons may reduce expenditures on those weapons.

All of these rationales arguably reflect ELSI concerns.

Treaties that ban or restrict the use of certain weapons tend to inhibit technology or applications that might resemble, be confused with, or be associated with any prohibited weapon. In addition, the possibility of developing any given technology or application with military value raises the issue of whether U.S. interests are better served by its unrestricted development (and use) or in a world in which its development and use are restricted by mutual agreement with other nations that might also develop and/or use that technology or application. Some of the considerations in addressing such an issue may include the following:

• The technological capabilities of other parties to exploit the technology or application in question, taking into account the time scale on which these other parties will be able to do so.


29 These three purposes can be found in Thomas C. Schelling and Morton H. Halperin, Strategy and Arms Control, Pergamon Brassey’s, Washington, D.C., 1985.

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