Politics in Minutes (2016)

Defence and national security

The nature of defence and national security has changed dramatically with the advent of modern weaponry. Now war can be waged over long distances to devastating effect, the importance of international politics and diplomacy has increased. The Cold War that characterized much of the 20th century was based on the possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and the notion of ‘MAD’ (mutually assured destruction). Deterrence, often in the form of a sabre-rattling arms race, prevented the kind of large-scale conflict seen in two world wars, but resulted in a large number of small ‘proxy wars’ using conventional weaponry. International agreements limit the use and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but old habits die hard and the old powers are reluctant to totally relinquish their weaponry. New threats come from terrorism, and many countries have responded by an increased emphasis on intelligence and surveillance to ensure national security, often seeking international cooperation in dealing with a global concern.