Move Forward With Missle Defense
The tragic events of the last few weeks have awakened all Americans to the realization that we are vulnerable to attack from those who hate us. There is much that we need to do as a nation to fortify our defenses and seek new ways to root out and combat the terrorist threat.
Yet, even today, some still suggest that the Bush administration’s missile defense proposal needs to be reexamined. After all, they maintain, these terrorists did not strike our land with nuclear-tipped missiles, but through a stealth attack within our borders; so all of our efforts should go into fighting similar assaults. This is a very short-sighted position.
It should now be obvious to everyone that fanatics with the capacity to fly a commercial airline filled with innocent civilians into New York skyscrapers and military facilities will use any means at their disposal to attack us. They search for points of vulnerability to exploit; and we are vulnerable to missile attack. Those who mean us harm understand that nothing would be more devastating to our nation than a missile strike containing biological, chemical or nuclear materials. That’s why they are spending so much money and effort on developing that capability.
In the aftermath of September 11, British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoes this sentiment, warning that terrorists were hard at work developing these capabilities.
“We know they would, if they could, go further and use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction,” the Prime Minister said. “We know also that there are groups of people, occasionally states, who trade the capability and technology, for such weapons. Terrorism has taken on a new and frightening aspect.
Blair recognized what three terrorism commissions and scores of law-enforcement agencies have told us many times. Terrorist seek out weaknesses and capitalize on them, as they did when they seized U.S. airlines. But they surely realize that our airline security is certain to be strengthened. They will seek out a new Achilles’ heel, and they will try to strike again.
In would be a dereliction of duty for America’s leaders to ignore the missile threat. We are making great progress in missile-defense technology. Just this summer, the military successfully intercepted a test missile over the Pacific Ocean, and the Pentagon has conducted several other successful tests.
In fact, it is fast becoming possible to deploy a limited missile defense system in the short term that would focus on a limited strike from a rogue nation or group of terrorists. Gradually, as technology develops, this system would increase its capabilities.
It is a false choice to dump missile defense in order to fund counter-terrorism efforts. Money spent on missile defense amounts to barely two percent of our overall defense budget – and about less that one-half of one percent of our entire federal budget. This is hardly a financial burden, especially within the context of a new defensive build-up. Missile defense does not take money from counter-terrorism efforts; in fact, it is a key component in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorists.
Opponents argue that missile defense will increase international instability. Quite to the contrary. In fact, the United States is working on building a broad-based coalition of nations to counter the threats posed by terrorists and their sponsors.
The civilized world is fast recognizing that a real source of international instability is the rapid proliferation of nuclear technology. At least 28 nations are now believed to have ballistic missile capability, including nations that have been linked to terrorist organizations. The New York Times recently reported – on the same day of the terrorist attacks on Manhattan – that nuclear material in former Soviet states is now available for smuggling or sale.
We must deal with all of our vulnerabilities – and that includes deploying a defense against ballistic missile attack.
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