Why Deterrence Is Better Than Missile Shield

By Davis, Charles | National Catholic Reporter, August 10, 2001 | Go to article overview

Why Deterrence Is Better Than Missile Shield


Davis, Charles, National Catholic Reporter


For the past five decades, the United States has relied on a policy of nuclear deterrence as a way of averting nuclear war. U.S. and Soviet leaders knew that if either fired nuclear weapons at the other, mass mutual destruction would be the result.

It was a Faustian bargain, but it worked.

President George Bush and his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, would now have us believe that the policy is outdated, arguing that it does not work to deter small "rogue" nations like Iraq. What we need now, Bush and Rumsfeld have consistently said, is a layered missile defense shield to protect the United States and its allies against the threat of rogue states.

The proposal is vague. It is based on weapons of unknown numbers and types, as well as unknown modes of deployment. Yet to get what he wants, Bush is willing to not only abandon deterrence -- a policy that, however controversial, has served both us and the Soviets well -- but also to unilaterally abrogate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Further, the administration wants to back NATO expansion to include even states in the former USSR such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Over such expansion, Russia would have no veto.

Bush's plan is based on two false premises and threatens Russia's security to the point of creating world instability.

Let's look at those false premises.

1) Bush falsely asserts that deterrence is no assurance against missile attacks from small rogue nations like Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he argues, is too irrational to be deterred by the power of a U.S. arsenal.

Recent history, however, suggests the opposite

As evidence of Saddam's irrationality, Bush's supporters like to point out that Saddam has used chemical weapons against Iran and even against his own people and that, in an act of revenge when withdrawing from Kuwait in 1991, he created an ecological disaster by setting fire to hundreds of oil wells.

What Bush and his supporters fail to point out, though, is how deterrence has been effective even against Saddam. In the Gulf War and since, the Iraqi leader has avoided stepping over any line that was likely to tempt the United States to unleash its nuclear arsenal. Saddam probably heeded warnings by the first President George Bush that use of poison gas against U.S. troops in countries that bordered Iraq would mean the end of Iraq.

2) Our current President Bush also falsely asserts that Russia would not be threatened by the missile defense shield he proposes.

Unfortunately, people speaking for the administration consistently ignore what Russia cannot ignore: The defense shield Bush proposes could allow the United States to launch a first strike and then be prepared to intercept whatever missiles Russia had left to launch against us.

As a retired analyst of Soviet political and military affairs, I believe that Bush's plan leaves Russian leaders with legitimate security concerns.

From Moscow's viewpoint, Russia's conventional military forces are incapable of quelling the rebellion in Chechnya, much less of stopping a potential invasion from Western Europe. Their combat aircraft rarely fly; their ships rarely sail and their submarines can't leave port without the danger of blowing themselves up.

At the same time, the overwhelming superiority demonstrated by U.S. conventional forces in the last decade, combined with its robust nuclear forces, puts Russia's weakening nuclear deterrent at great risk even before the proposed missile shield is put in place. Looking toward the future, Moscow must be concerned about its security in case of a first strike by the United States. If the United States were to launch a first strike with land- and. sea-based ballistic missiles, backed up by air- and sea-based cruise missiles and stealth bombers, we could destroy a substantial portion of the Russian missiles capable of hitting the United States. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why Deterrence Is Better Than Missile Shield
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.