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The phrase arms race, in its original usage, is a competition between two or more parties to have the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation. Nowadays the term is mostly used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors, essentially the goal of proving to be "better".
Examples of arms races 
The size and power of battleships grew rapidly before, during, and after World War I: a result of competitive shipbuilding among a number of naval powers, brought to an end by the Washington Naval Treaty
From the dates 1891 to 1919, an arms race between several European countries, including Germany, France, Russia, and a few more took place. Specifically, Germany's envy of Britain's superior navy in the run up to World War I resulted in a costly building competition of Dreadnought-class ships. This tense arms race lasted until June 1914, when, after two antagonic power blocs were formed because of the rivalry, the World War broke out. After the war, a new arms race developed among the victorious Allies. The Washington Naval Treaty was only partly able to put an end to the race. Prior to WWI, a dreadnought arms race also took place in South America.
Nuclear arms race 
A nuclear arms race developed during the Cold War, an intense period between the Soviet Union and the United States. On both sides, perceived advantages of the adversary (such as the "missile gap") led to large spending on armaments and the stockpiling of vast nuclear arsenals. Proxy wars were fought all over the world (e.g. in the Middle East, Korea, Vietnam) in which the superpowers' conventional weapons were pitted against each other. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, tensions decreased and the nuclear arsenal of both countries were reduced.
Other uses 
More generically, the term "arms race" is used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors in rank or knowledge. An arms race may also imply futility as the competitors spend a great deal of time and money, yet end up in the same situation as if they had never started the arms race.
An evolutionary arms race is a system where two populations are evolving in order to continuously one-up members of the other population. An example of this is the escalation of drug resistance in pathogens, in step with the use of increasingly powerful drugs.
This is related to the Red Queen effect (Red Queen's Hypothesis#Arms race), where two populations are co-evolving to overcome each other but are failing to make absolute progress.
In technology, there are close analogues to the arms races between parasites and hosts, such as the arms race between computer virus writers and antivirus software writers, or spammers against Internet service providers and E-mail software writers.
The arms race argument has also been invoked by gun control advocates, particularly in the United States where the debate is most polarised.
See also 
- Richard J. Barnet: Der amerikanische Rüstungswahn. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1984, ISBN 3-499-11450-X (German)
- Jürgen Bruhn: Der Kalte Krieg oder: Die Totrüstung der Sowjetunion. Focus, Gießen 1995, ISBN 3-88349-434-8 (German)
Thu, 16 May 2013 15:02:36 -0700
Cardinals Are Leading Baseball's Arms Race. Print Email. May 17, 2013 12:00 am • Chris Spurlock • firstname.lastname@example.org • 314-340-8309 · Loading… The Cardinals pitching staff is the best in baseball through the first quarter of the season, and ...
Fri, 17 May 2013 07:51:35 -0700
Major search marketing players in the tools arms race are Kenshoo, Marin, IgnitionOne, Adobe AdLens, and DoubleClick. While Kenshoo and Marin built their own proprietary tools, other companies used acquisitions to get ahead; Google purchased ...
Thu, 16 May 2013 03:25:42 -0700
On the evening of 23 March, 1983, Ronald Reagan delivered a televised address about defence and national security. "Let me share with you a vision of the future," the president began in what was a last-minute addition to the half-hour speech. In Reagan ...
Thu, 16 May 2013 06:49:53 -0700
Picture: Sarah Reed. Source: The Advertiser. PORT Adelaide will spend $17.5 million on its football program this season. This is $2m more than in 2011 when the Power ranked second-last in the game's "arms race" known as football department spending.
Mon, 06 May 2013 19:55:11 -0700
With the exchange rate bobbling around US $100, those involved in creating new bitcoins—and upholding the network that makes them valuable—have become locked in an arms race of sorts, seeking new, powerful machines that will enrich them but could ...
Tue, 14 May 2013 13:07:31 -0700
In the hectic "arms race" to protect the vast currents of digital wealth, unpleasant surprises do happen, as RAKBank and BankMuscat can testify. Last week we learnt that in December and February the two were hit by a sophisticated worldwide scam that ...
History News Network
Tue, 07 May 2013 07:54:50 -0700
By the time the Soviet Union began to totter, America's leaders had for nearly a decade been consciously using “the arms race” to spend its opponent into an early grave. And here was the curious thing after centuries of arms races: when there was no ...
Anchorage Daily News
Fri, 10 May 2013 17:43:31 -0700
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The white-hot debate in Congress over background checks, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines has cooled for now. But a new, futuristic "arms race" is afoot that could turn the politics of gun control on its head. One side ...
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