Getting Down to Cases

  • William J. Durch


Countries buy and build major conventional weapon systems for a host of political, military, and economic reasons that vary by region and country, from defense against external threats, to control of internal minorities, to national image-building and military institution-building, sometimes by armed forces with too much political power and too little accountability. The specific cases examined in this chapter lie along a broad arc from western to eastern Asia that accounts for more than 80 percent of the arms delivered to developing states in the 1990s.1 That arc begins with Turkey, which anchors Asia’s western end and serves as both a geopolitical and cultural bridge between Asia and Europe. Although a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and thus technically not a developing country, Turkey’s location is pivotal, as it has been through history, and the problems and forces it contends with—national identity, an Islamic revival, and pressures for ethnic autonomy—are shared by, and bear upon the stability of, regional security complexes to its west, east, and south. The forces of secularism and Islamism also vie for influence in Turkey’s large eastern neighbor, Iran, but in a kind of mirror-image fashion. Where the government in Ankara fights to preserve its secular state, Iran’s clerics fight to preserve their theocracy. To the east of Iran lie Pakistan and India, a pair of mismatched twins still angry over the botched operation to separate them at birth. That anger is now nuclear-armed. As India contends with Pakistan, it also keeps a wary eye on China, with which it shares contested mountain borders and which it views as its major competitor for preeminence in Asia. (About one in three human beings lives in either India or China.) The politics and defense policies of China exert major influence, in turn, on the policies of the states on its periphery in Southeast and Northeast Asia. Of these the largest and, at the close of the 1990s, most fragile was Indonesia with 200 million people—including 8 million ethnic Chinese—spread across a 13,000-island archipelago.


Gross Domestic Product Nuclear Weapon Democratic Progressive Party Khmer Rouge North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
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© The Century Foundation, Inc. 2000

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  • William J. Durch

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