Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Why the United States Still Lacks a National Missile Defense

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Why the United States Still Lacks a National Missile Defense

Article excerpt

There have been countless articles written bemoaning the fact that the United States has not yet deployed any defenses capable of defeating even the smallest and simplest of missile attacks. This paper attempts to examine the reasons underlying the reluctance to deploy such a defense, which will be referred to as National Missile Defense (NMD). In order to review the subject objectively, a number of factors which influence defense policy within democracies have been identified, so that the importance of each factor in determining attitudes towards NMD, can be assessed separately. No claim is made that the topIcs identified cover every aspect leading to the acceptance of a new program, merely that the list below encompasses most of the primary issues. The items to be considered are:

An undisputed recognition of the threat

A military requirement to counter the threat

Public and Government support for the activity

The technical capability

Financial commitment to complete the work

Freedom to proceed under international treaties

These factors were first highlighted by us in an attempt to explain why Israel, with much more limited resources, had made greater progress towards deployment of a missile defense than the United States'. More recently the same factors were examined by J. Cirincione, who drew similar conclusions for the lack of progress, although from a very different perspective.2

Each of the topics listed above is examined in some depth, to ascertain the level of importance which each has been accorded by the various agencies which contribute significantly towards U.S. defense policy.

An Undisputed Recognition Of The Threat

Because of it's geographic location, America, in contrast to most of it's allies, is able to separate threats into Theater and Strategic. The former applies to U.S. forces operating overseas, while the latter refers to NMD for Continental USA, Alaska and Hawaii. During the cold war there was no doubt that the massive Soviet build up of offensive missiles dominated U.S. defense policy. There was no uncertainty in identifying the threat. It was one that for many years appeared to be too large to counter solely with a defense. Deterrence dominated security policy thinking.

Since the fall of the former Soviet Union (FSU), there is general agreement that the strategic threat has signIficantly decreased, although there is no suggestion that it has gone away entirely.3 There is also general agreement that the fall of the FSU has been followed by a significant increase in the proliferation of missile and unconventional warhead technology.4 It is the speed with which these proliferated capabilities can be turned, by acquiring nations, into real threats against America, that is the basis of considerable disagreement.

The Intelligence Authorities and the Administration see no new strategic threat developing within 10 to 15 years,5 Republicans in Congress have been far less sanguine. They point out that the retargeting of Russian nuclear weapons, which are no longer aimed at US soil, is a political rather than a military gesture, and can be changed very quickly.6 This despite the fact that the agreement retargeting U.S. and Russian offensive systems has been trumpeted as a major triumph by the present Administration,7 Also the transfer of hardware, and experienced staff to other countries is now much more difficult to control. Those sufficiently determined to build up capabilities will now be able to do so much more rapidly than starting from scratch.

Allegations have been made that recent threat assessments by the U.S. security branches have been subJected to political pressures. This, and related disagreements, even led in 1996 to a court challenge by some Congressional members, against the Administration policy of delaying the deployment of an NMD.s These advocates consider that proliferation could lead to the development of strategic threats in a much shorter time scale than that to which the research programs have been designed to respond. …

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