Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Star Wars Needed More Than Before

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Star Wars Needed More Than Before

Article excerpt

The United States has no defense against an incoming ballistic missile. That's because we are frozen in a decade-old debate now devoid of meaning. When President Ronald Reagan proposed a space-based defense in 1983, his plan was derided as "Star Wars," not only upsetting the theory of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), but technologically impossible - what system could stop thousands of incoming Soviet missiles?

Today, the threat is not from a superpower's thousands, but from a rogue state's handful; or from an accidental or misinformed launch following the sort of false alarm that went directly to Boris Yeltsin's nuclear "suitcase" in January of this year, responding to a Norwegian scientific rocket test; or from a group of terrorists who buy or steal one of Russia's 400 SS-25 mobile launchers and equip it with a nuclear or biological warhead.

We are using yesterday's strategic doctrine to fail to confront tomorrow's threat. Retaliation's fear stops a rational attacker; it does not deter the fanatic.

Consider the president who receives a nuclear missile threat from an Iraq or North Korea or Hezbollah. He could treat it as a bluff - at huge risk to an American city. He could counter-threaten to wipe the offending nation off the face of the earth - but suicidal fanatics don't care, and millions of Americans would not live to enjoy the terrible vengeance.

We are defenseless by design. That affects our diplomacy in a crisis. When a Chinese official warned recently that any intervention by us to protect Taiwan would endanger Los Angeles, that had to be factored into our readiness to send our ships through the Strait. We refused to take that threat seriously; someday we will have to take such a statement dead seriously.

If only, a future president will say, I had the ability to shoot down an incoming missile or two or three. That very capacity would stop nuclear blackmailing, and the president would not be forced to take a chance with the lives of millions of U.S. citizens.

Why don't we have space-based defense, now that we know it is practicable? The argument that it costs too much would vaporize with the first explosion. …

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