Shoot Down This Request

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

Shoot Down This Request


Byline: The Register-Guard

PAUL MAGINOT, France's minister of war in the 1920s, devised what he believed was a failproof plan to protect his country from a German invasion. The Maginot Line, which spanned the length of the French-German border, was regarded as one of the most costly and technologically advanced homeland defenses in history.

In 1940, Germany invaded France and the Maginot Line proved both ineffective and irrelevant. The reason: the Germans simply sidestepped the vaunted defense and used Belgium as their point of entry.

President Bush's proposed missile defense system, which he believes will help safeguard the United States from missile attacks by rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, is every bit as fanciful - and useless - as the Maginot Line.

After years of development and testing - and billions of dollars - the Pentagon's midcourse interceptor system still can't discriminate between a live warhead and decoys that any rogue nation capable of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of lofting into space. Among scientists who have scrutinized flight tests, many say the system not only doesn't work now but that it may well be unable to function effectively in the foreseeable future.

Now the Bush administration is proposing to exempt the missile defense system from the real-world operational testing and congressional oversight that is legally required of every new weapons system. If Congress is foolhardy enough to agree with this request, it would be the first time a major weapons system has been formally exempted from the testing and oversight requirements.

The president's audacious request is potentially detrimental to national security, which should be based on proven results and not untested hypotheses. Shrouding development and deployment of an antimissile program in secrecy will only increase the likelihood that the end product will prove no more effective than a battery of water balloons launched by bungie cords. …

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