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The Case for Missile Defense: The fact that America faces novel terrorist threats such as hijacked planes and anthrax spores does not negate the need for an effective, comprehensive missile defense. (Defense).

In an October 28th op-ed piece for the New York Times, ex-Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev wrote that, in light of the shocking breaches of American security on September 11th, the United States might begin making a priority out of unilateral national defense. "It would be a cause of great concern," he fretted, "if major nuclear powers abandoned or neglected multilateral forums, or took steps that would endanger the entire structure of arms control treaties, many of which, such as the 1972 ABM Treaty, are of as much value today as they were during the decades of nuclear confrontation."

Gorbachev isn't a lone voice, either. In the aftermath of September 11th, with the Bush administration's intention to scrap the ABM Treaty attracting a lot of political support, a chorus of Establishment voices have been clamoring to keep the 1972 agreement and to nix any national missile defense. "Even in the wake of Sept. 11, Bush clings to the wasteful, improbable Son of Star Wars," complained the Houston Chronicle on October 23rd. On the same day, the San Francisco Chronicle warned, "[N]ow, more than ever, an antimissile defense system mocks the actual dangers that threaten Americans -- as well as the rest of the world. It won't defend against terrorist weapons that, so far, have included box-cutters, planes and anthrax spores. Nor will it protect us from plastic explosives, cyberterrorism, or chemical warfare."

Arguments like these are nothing new. For several decades, since the United States embarked on the suicidal policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and underscored it with an ABM treaty forbidding any substantive missile defense measures, foreign policy experts with more Ivy-League credentials than common sense have been promoting abstract goals like "containment," "stabilization," and "deterrence" rather than national defense per se. In the process, they have successfully convinced a large number of gullible Americans, including congressional leaders, that defense against a missile attack is technologically impossible, politically unwise, and strategically unnecessary -- and they have kept the United States pitifully vulnerable to nuclear attack. Exploiting our supposed nuclear Achilles' heel, the fanatical adherents of appeasement and arms control have extracted dangerous concessions in national sovereignty -- like the ABM and SALT treaties -- that unilaterally limit our ability to defend ourselves.

Changing Climate

With the recent terrorist attacks, though, the political climate has changed. Suddenly national defense is a pressing urgency, and momentum is growing to scrap the ABM Treaty and other treasonous agreements with the former Soviet Union. But anti-American globalists, still eager to keep America weakened and vulnerable, have begun a campaign of withering propaganda to prevent this from happening.

The most common argument for continuing to neglect missile defense is that September 11th has shown us that, in the words of the New York Times, "the most immediate threat to the nation comes from terrorists, not nations with intercontinental ballistic missiles." Therefore, the critics argue, we should focus our resources on going after the men with the box cutters and the anthrax spores, rather than spend billions developing a system to shoot down Russian missiles.

That is, we should be selective in which threats to defend against. This is tantamount to choosing between a burglar alarm and a fire alarm, on the specious premise that we can't defend against both break-ins and fire hazards.

More importantly, a "threat" by its very nature is virtual, not actual. While no modern-day power has yet attempted a full-scale military assault, nuclear or otherwise, against the United States mainland, no one could credibly argue that any terrorist cell, however ingenious or well-equipped, could wreak as much havoc and loss of life as a Russian or Chinese nuclear missile attack. The most effective defense anticipates what might happen, rather than reacting too late to damage already done.

But, reply the critics, no country would dare launch a direct nuclear attack against the United States. As the Houston Chronicle put it, "such governments, even at their edge-of-reality looniest, would think twice about such an act because ... U.S. retaliation would bring annihilation." This argument assumes that the only suicidal enemies of the United States are "non-state actors" like the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center and the USS Cole.

But governments, even those of open societies, frequently act irrationally and against their best interests. The United States itself has done so consistently, under the influence of subversives hostile to American freedoms. And the verdict of history suggests that tyrannical regimes are even less rational. It is now well-known, for example, that some of imperial Japan's military and political leaders warned of the consequences of attacking Pearl Harbor. Saddam Hussein was deluded into believing that the West would not defend Kuwaiti oil fields. During the Gulf War, he even launched a barrage of SCUD missiles at Israel, undeterred by Israel's nuclear capability. The People's Republic of China has gone on record threatening to nuke Los Angeles if the United States comes to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. And a hypothetical nuclear regime like North Korea, facing military defeat in a future Korean conflict, might launch a desperation nuclear assault as a last-minute gesture of vengeful defiance. It is dangerously naive to assume that states and their leadership will behave rationally, especially in wartime.

Technological Capabilities

The next line of argument usually leveled against missile defense is the supposed technological limitations. "There is no indication that such a scheme would work and every sign it would cost billions even to find out," opined the Los Angeles Times. Wrong on both counts. Not only is a credible missile defense well within our technological capabilities, there is little question that such a system -- if deployed -- would work very effectively. As Sam Cohen, the inventor of the neutron bomb, wrote in these pages in October 1998, nuclear-tipped missile interceptors would be an extremely effective and easily achievable missile-defense system:

Real strategic defense requires nuclear interceptors to overcome the huge economic and technical disadvantages of the non-nuclear defense systems that inherently favor attackers.... Nuclear explosives of the kind developed for Safeguard [a short-lived ABM system deployed in the '70s] included the six-kiloton Sprint, which could effectively take out attacking missiles within a radius of tens of yards, and the megaton Spartan, which could reach out to a radius of several miles to destroy missiles. These or similar systems could be launched from the ground, sea, air, or space, and a genuine ABM program would utilize a combination of these launch options to provide in-depth defense.

Even leaving aside nuclear ABM defenses, conventional anti-missile missiles like the Patriot have proven effective -- especially against obsolescent models like the Iraqi SCUDs, the type of missile most likely to be used by a third-world rogue regime.

For those who insist on some kind of defense against enemy missiles, Establishment liberals have a pat concession: Limited ABM defenses are okay, as long as they don't pose a serious threat to a major nuclear-armed adversary like the Russians. This is, in fact, the position of Bush administration "conservatives" who insist, even as they loudly promote a limited missile defense against rogue regimes, that America will not consider building any significant countermeasures against an all-out nuclear assault by a superpower adversary like Russia or China. The Bush administration's tough-talking Donald Rumsfeld implied as much by announcing on October 25th that the Pentagon had postponed antimissile tracking tests to avoid the appearance of violating the ABM Treaty or provoking the Russians.

But there is evidence that, despite the propaganda smokescreen, many Americans are awakening to America's dangerous vulnerability not only to terrorism but to old-fashioned military assaults. A new poll on internationalist views conducted by the Pew Research Center in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations found "growing public support for a missile defense system" since September 11th. The study admitted uneasily that "nearly two thirds [surveyed] favor the development of a missile shield and a growing number say we need such a system now."

Americans must not be deluded by the false alternatives offered by the Establishment on missile defense. They must insist that the excuses and prevarications stop, and that our elected leaders take all steps to defend our country, as completely as possible, from nuclear attack. No government that has frittered away billions of dollars on risky Mars missions, many of which have failed abysmally, can cite lack of technology, risk of failure, or budget shortfalls as excuses for not developing missile defense. And since September 11th, no one with a shred of human decency can justify any but a comprehensive approach to national defense. National defense, after all, is the first responsibility of any moral government. It's time to stop holding Americans hostage by playing games with America's enemies.
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Author:Bonta, Steve
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 3, 2001
Previous Article:Runaway Boat. (The goodness of America).
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