UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Technology and change in national defense planning in the twentieth century Carter, Tim


The national security policies of the great powers have changed dramatically since the turn of the century. These changes have had vast implications for the study of international relations. This thesis examines the role of technology in changing national security policies during the twentieth century. In order to do so, two issues are addressed. First, how is national security policy formed, and how does it change. Second, what role has technology played in this process, and how has this role changed over time. Three historical cases are developed to address these questions. Each case highlights a different period in time and in technological development. Together, the three cases incorporate most of the major technological changes of the twentieth century, as well as the main streams of thought regarding the importance of these changes to security planning. Three possible models for explaining the development of national security policy, and technology's role in it, are developed and applied across the appropriate cases. Each model provides insight into the nature of the national security policy at one particular point in time. Since the turn of the century, national security policy has been radically revised at every level of planning. The conceptual foundation upon which security policy was constructed has been fundamentally altered. Threats to the state have changed, as have responses to those threats. Traditional notions, such as the defense of the state, have been discarded in favor of security through deterrence. The concept of deterrence itself has changed, as traditional methods of deterring attacks no longer apply. In each case the extent of these changes is more apparent. Similarly, in each case the role of technology in creating these changes is more dominant. By 1960, the role of technology is the single most important factor in understanding national security policy. Technology shapes not only the methods by which a state may be secured, but also the conditions of its security problem. The penultimate technological development, nuclear weapons, has truly revolutionized national security and, therefore, national security policy.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.