Missile Defense Bait and Switch? Dole-Clinton Contrasts

By Gaffney, Frank, Jr. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

Missile Defense Bait and Switch? Dole-Clinton Contrasts


Gaffney, Frank, Jr., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Just when you thought the Clinton administration had fully plumbed the depths of cynicism, hypocrisy and doublespeak - a practice that has helped debase the business of government in the eyes of too many Americans - along comes a new low. The latest example will not affect the work requirements of welfare mothers, the amount of increase in Social Security payments or the extent of tort reform, however. It may, instead, impinge upon the security of millions of our countrymen.

On the eve of President Clinton's visit to Russia last week, Defense Secretary William Perry gave a speech at Georgetown University on the burgeoning danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the means by which they might be delivered against U.S. forces, allies and territory. He spoke in ominous terms of the post-Cold War period as one that is "not a brave new world" but "a grave new world." Mr. Perry went on to describe how a "Rogues' Gallery" comprised of nations like Iran, Iraq and Libya want these weapons "to bully their neighbors, to blackmail world powers and to offset the U.S. military superiority." So far, so good.

Then the defense secretary described the Clinton administration's "three lines of defense" against this "insidious threat": preventing or reducing the menace of proliferation; if prevention fails, deterring the threat; and if deterrence fails, defending against it. With regard to the last of these, he said: "As such nations develop strategic missiles in the future, we will need a missile defense system based in the United States that can intercept and destroy missiles directed at us."

After the secretary's speech, a questioner noted that House Speaker Newt Gingrich had strongly endorsed a missile defense for the American people a short while before. When asked to clarify the differences between what the Republicans sought in this area and the administration's plans, Mr. Perry observed:

"In our judgment, the threat has not yet emerged from these rogue nations that might fire missiles against the United States, and might not for a good many years. In the [Republican's] judgment it is emerging, and we should commit right now to build and deploy the systems. ... That's the difference between the two programs. Both of us agree that ballistic missile defense is necessary for the United States, but there's a different emphasis on how much resources we should put in and what aspects of the ballistic missile defense should be emphasized at this time."

One could be forgiven for construing such remarks as evidence the Clinton administration now shares the Republican Congress' determination to field effective ballistic missile protection for the American people. It would appear the only real question still to be resolved is a relatively minor one -a matter of timing concerning precisely when the U.S. government needs to select a particular technology to provide such protection.

In fact, the latest Clinton gambit - like its machinations in many other public policy areas -amounts to a classic bait-and-switch scam: Offer the consumer (in this case, the voters in 1996) something calculated to sound like what they want (typically very similar to whatever Republicans are offering). …

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