THE terrifying threat posed by Iraqi Scuds during Desert Storm
was a nasty taste of what is to come. Patriots effectively counter
Scuds, but countries worldwide are acquiring missiles that can outdo
Patriot. These missiles constitute a threat to United States assets
and personnel abroad and to US allies.
Soviet Scuds, whose range was easily extended by Iraq, are
possessed by several nations in the Middle East; they can reach
Europe. North Korea reverse-engineered and upgraded Scuds, which now
menace South Korea and, potentially, Japan. Intermediate-range
ballistic missiles are in the hands of Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.
At least 18 nations now have ballistic-missile capability and the
number is growing.
Many missiles under development are very sophisticated. Some
countries, such as India, could possess intercontinental ballistic
missiles - weapons that can directly threaten the US - by the end of
the decade. This is about the time it would take the US to build
successful defenses against these missiles.
The spread of missile technology worldwide is made all the more
terrifying by the concurrent development of warheads of mass
destruction. The nations that are getting missile technologies are
also working on nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads. India,
China, and Pakistan already have nuclear-weapons capability; North
Korea, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and others have nuclear
facilities that are not subject to international inspection and
could be used for weapons purposes. At least 20 nations are known to
have chemical-weapons programs, and dozens more have the
technological prowess. Biological weapons are technically easy to
One answer to the missile-proliferation problem is arms control,
such as an international ban on intermediate-range missiles. Not
everyone will sign up to arms control, however. And some who do may
still cheat. We need insurance against deadly missiles.
Arms-control efforts should be accompanied by missile defense
systems. This is what is intended in President Bush's program known
as Global Protection Against Limited Strikes - GPALS. GPALS is a $41
billion program to provide defense against tactical and strategic
ballistic missiles. It involves space and ground-based sensors and
nonnuclear interceptors. It is not pie-in-the-sky technology. It
can be in operation by the end of the decade or sooner.
GPALS also can protect the US and its allies against unauthorized
or accidental launches from the Soviet Union or China. Imagine that
the USSR breaks up into republics or China again undergoes
revolution. Missiles could fall into the hands of independent
militia or political factions. It is conceivable that they could
fire a nuclear-armed missile at the US or its allies. GPALS could
kill a missile as Patriot destroyed Scuds.
OPPONENTS of modernizing US missile defense have argued that
third-world weapons of mass destruction would probably not be
delivered by missiles. …