Clearing the Air on Missile defense.(LETTERS)

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On June 28, Jim Hackett and I outlined President Bush's success at the Moscow summit ("Arms controllers and anti-missile weapons," Commentary). We called for opponents of missile defense, in light of the changed relationship between the United States and Russia, to join to secure America's defense against ballistic missiles. In a July 10 letter, Lawrence Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations took us to task ("Poor caricature of 'rich' arms controllers"). While interesting, Mr. Korb's points are sufficiently erroneous to require a response from me.

Whether self-appointed arms-control organizations wrote the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty is beside the point. They tried tirelessly to preserve its perverse prohibition against defending Americans from ballistic missiles even when it became clear that such threats had increased dramatically. Previous administrations did adhere to the ABM treaty. It was, needless to say, the law of the land. But so what? President Reagan and his successor, George Bush, laid the groundwork for the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty through their support for missile defense, in contrast to the outright hostility of the Clinton administration.

As Mr. Korb says, Gen. Larry Welch of the Institute for Defense Analysis used the phrase "rush to failure" to describe the national missile defense program. However, he was describing the Clinton approach to missile defense. In remarks at a seminar I hosted this year, he praised the corrective actions taken by the Bush administration to put the programs on course.

Plans to build a phased, layered defense will deal with the countermeasures so feared by Mr. Korb, although they have nowhere been tested or deployed. It is perplexing why congressional critics cut the boost-phase programs that would deal with countermeasures. It is true that some critics of missile defense are not self-appointed arms controllers - again, so what? …