Tina He / Sun Contributor

Nancy W. Gallagher discusses the historical precedent for arms control at a talk Thursday

February 11, 2016

Security Expert Advocates Flexible Arms Control

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Nancy W. Gallagher, interim director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, stressed the need for more flexible, informal and interconnected international arms control policies at a talk Thursday.

Gallagher began the lecture by introducing her book, which highlights the challenges that countries enforcing arms control face in the current political environment.

“I started the [book] during the 2008 presidential election, as a reaction against the Bush administration’s claim that arms control was an automotive relative of the Cold War,” she said.

Gallagher said that although weapon usage by non-state entities — like ISIL and al-Qaeda — is becoming increasingly important, the international community has not acted rapidly to address this dangerous global situation.

“Arms control is too slow,” Gallagher said. “It’s too bureaucratic, it’s too rigid to fit a rapidly changing security environment.”

Gallagher added that because of the complicated global political climate, legal agreements on arms control treaties are unnecessary.

“Whenever cooperation is mutually beneficial, it will spontaneously emerge,” she said. “You can have the cooperation that you need among like-minded states that have similar values without having legal agreements and having implementation bureaucracies.”

Gallagher then turned her focus to American foreign policy, saying that in spite of partisan differences, the Obama and Bush administrations’ arm control policies display many similarities. This resemblance is mostly “due to circumstances” outside of their control, such as the “Republican control of Congress and fact that Putin has not been a very cooperative guy,” according to Gallagher. Gallagher emphasized the importance of more substantial forms of arms control, such as those implemented during the Cold War.

“The fact that we’re not able to make any significant progress on it right now is a big problem, because we can’t address the security needs that we have only through voluntary cooperation,” Gallagher said. “The kinds of cooperation that we can get simply aren’t significant [enough] to make a major impact on the measures that we’re facing.”

Measures for confronting security issues in arms control in the modern day requires a different approach, according to Gallagher.

“We still need arms control, but we need a very different kind of arms control than we practiced during the Cold War,” she said. “[We also need] very different processes for trying to get international and domestic agreement on arms control.”