Pursuit of the Shield: The U.S. Quest for Limited Ballistic Missile Defense

By Kreitz, Jon Christopher | Military Review, September/October 1999 | Go to article overview

Pursuit of the Shield: The U.S. Quest for Limited Ballistic Missile Defense


Kreitz, Jon Christopher, Military Review


PURSUIT OF THE SHIELD: The U.S. Quest for Limited Ballistic Missile Defense by K. Scott McMahon and John Warner. 408 pages. University Press of America, Lanharn, MD. 1997. $62.00.

In Pursuit of the Shield: The U.S. Quest for Limited Ballistic Missile Defense. K. Scott McMahon and John Warner argue that the United States should field a nuclear missle defense (NMD) system as soon as possible. McMahon and Warner effectively compare and contrast the interaction between technology, threat perception, national security strategy and the political forces that led to the rise and fall of a limited ballistic missile defense (BMD) during the Cold War and its resurgence in the 1990s. The authors develop a coherent NMD strategy proposal they hope will generate enough military, civilian and political support to sustain it through deployment and operations.

McMahon and Warner review the history of failed US attempts at strategic BMD and argue that it is now technically feasible, affordable and strategically sound to develop and deploy an NMD system consisting of multiple ground-based interceptor sites augmented by ground- and space-based missile-tracking sensors. They recommend a phased NMD deployment beginning with immediate preparations to reactivate the former Sentinel-Safeguard site at Grand Forks, North Dakota. They also suggest adding additional sites later to provide a capability to defend all 50 states from future rogue state threats and unauthorized or accidental ballistic missile launches from Russia or China.

Although the authors' proposal of having a ground-based NMD system is feasible, it does not address the potential for sea- or space-based NMD elements. They make the assumption that a single, initial, ground-based interceptor site consisting of no more than 100 interceptor missiles would comply with the 1972 Armed Ballistic Missile Treaty.

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