A Limited Missile Defense Scuds Were Just the Beginning; Soon Many Small Nations Will Possess Missiles, and We Need to Build on Patriot's Success to Guard against Them

By Kathleen Bailey. Kathleen Bailey is former assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. She is now with the National Institute . | The Christian Science Monitor, April 23, 1991 | Go to article overview

A Limited Missile Defense Scuds Were Just the Beginning; Soon Many Small Nations Will Possess Missiles, and We Need to Build on Patriot's Success to Guard against Them


Kathleen Bailey. Kathleen Bailey is former assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. She is now with the National Institute ., The Christian Science Monitor


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 produce.

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. …

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