Ballistic Missile Defense in the Post-Cold War Era

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Post-Cold War Era

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Post-Cold War Era

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Post-Cold War Era


In the post–Cold War era, two fundamental changes have made missile defense for the United States and its military forces more compelling: The United States and Russia no longer see each other as direct threats and there has been a dramatic proliferation of ballistic missile capability in the Third World. Consequently, U. S. forces deployed overseas are more likely to be at risk and, eventually, the United States itself could become vulnerable to missile threats. With these changes in mind, David Denoon analyzes the current BMD dilemma, arguing that active defenses against missiles should be seen as a form of insurance against catastrophe. He assesses the likelihood of missile attacks and the appropriate level of investment for the United States to defend against such attacks. The book provides an assessment of deterrence and the performance of the Patriot missiles during the 1991 Gulf War, critiques the Strategic Defense Initiative, and analyzes the prospects for new types of short-range and intercontinental missile defenses.


Most public commentary on major international issues lags somewhat behind changing realities. At present, the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have created a striking change in the world balance of power. Prodigious amounts of effort are being devoted to explaining the resulting shifts in the structure of the international system. This attention to the macro changes in the international environment has led to a neglect of other, less visible changes which could well determine the next important set of adjustments in the global competition for power and influence.

One of the most critical of these new developments has been the growth of the quantity and sophistication of ballistic missile forces in the third world. Ironically, just as many of our foreign policy commentators were concluding that a comprehensive National Missile Defense (NMD) was not necessary for the continental U.S., the missile threat to U.S. forces overseas was growing and the number of third world nations with the capability to develop long- range missiles was also growing. The U.S. Congress did pass the Missile Defense Act of 1991 which actually authorized the development of a limited American NMD system. Unfortunately, Congress never appropriated funds for the procurement of that limited system for the U.S. homeland.

The Clinton Administration has favored new funds for Theater Missile Defense (TMD) that could be used to protect U.S. forces deployed abroad or to protect allies from short- and medium-range missiles; however, it has opposed deployment of any missile defense for the continental U.S. and has turned the strategic defense effort into a purely research program.

The purpose of this volume is three-fold: (1) to explain why ballistic missiles are proliferating and the threat they pose, (2) to identify the principal issues warranting attention in the development of Theater and National Missile Defense, and (3) to demonstrate how adjustments in U.S. strategic thinking and force structure should be made as we plan for the 21st Century.

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