A Thousand Cuts Distracts Defense of U.S – missile attack warning systems finance, United States

A Thousand Cuts Distracts Defense of U.S – missile attack warning systems finance, United States – Brief Article

Frank J. Jr. Gaffney

It probably is, as the communists are wont to say, “no accident, comrade” that every day brings some news of yet another reason why President George W. Bush is wrong to try to defend the United States against ballistic-missile attack. After all, this initiative — like Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which preceded it — is absolutely anathema to the left in this country and abroad.

Consequently, as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) prepares to try to eviscerate the president’s request for missile-defense funding and Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) plans a similar effort on the House floor, anti-antimissile invective is spewing from every conceivable outlet. Consider the following sampler of what might be called a “strategy of a thousand cuts”:

Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other left-wing organizations have launched a lawsuit aimed at compelling the Bush administration to “reassess … the potential environmental damage” to be caused by its planned test facility in Alaska and “to provide … for public comment.” An Anchorage activist with Greenpeace confided to the New York Times the real purpose: “[Our] hope is that delay will lead to cancellation. That’s what we always hope for in these suits.”

The problem is that the Clinton Pentagon actually did produce a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement for an Alaskan missile-defense system — albeit one far larger (intended to house up to 100 interceptors) than the modest test facility Bush proposes to build (involving only five interceptor silos). It is hard to imagine how the latter could create more “environmental damage” than the former, which was deemed acceptable even to the green weenies of the Clinton administration.

Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology– the scientific poster child for the stop-missile-defense crowd–recently added a new item to his litany of debatable technical critiques of the Clinton and Bush programs: scaremongering transparently intended to inflame allied opposition. He asserts that even if a missile interceptor succeeds in effecting a boost-phase “kill” on an incoming missile (that is, during the early stage of trajectory when it is moving relatively slowly, easily identified and vulnerable to destruction), its warhead might continue on, landing in friendly territory with devastating effect.

Of course, it is not possible to say with precision exactly what the target of an enemy missile in boost-phase might be; perhaps allied cities were intended to be ground zero anyway. It also is true that intercepting a missile during that stage could cause any debris to land on the launching country since, by and large, these weapons tend to be deployed deep in the interior of such states. Even Richard Garwin –whose decades-long record of techno-nay-saying on defense programs makes Postol look like a piker–is quoted in the Aug. 29 edition of New Scientist magazine as pooh-poohing his colleague’s warnings: “If it hit land, the warhead would most likely hit a relatively uninhabited area and kill far fewer people than intended, says veteran physicist Richard Garwin. … That fact should deter nations such as North Korea or Iraq from launching a missile at the U.S., he says, if they were ever tempted to do so.”

The latest “cut” was precipitated by a New York Times report saying in effect that the Bush administration will tell the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the course of consultations about the president’s missile-defense plans that the United States has “no objections to [the PRC’s] plans to build up its small fleet of nuclear missiles.” This unattributed statement subsequently was disavowed on the record by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who acknowledged the reality that Chinese “modernization is under way” — whether the United States builds a missile defense or not — but made clear that, “We’re not going to acquiesce in it.”

The original Times article, nonetheless, created an opportunity for a fresh round of hand-wringing and chest-beating by the president’s opponents. We should not be encouraging China to build more missiles, increasing the threat to us and triggering an arms race in South Asia, they say. In fact, our deployment of missile defenses actually should discourage such actions.

Nonetheless, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) ventilated that the administration’s “headlong, headstrong, irrational and theological desire to build a missile defense sends the wrong message to the Chinese and to the whole world.” One wonders what message the Chinese took from Biden’s recent visit to Beijing, in which he made clear that he shared their determination to stop Bush in his tracks. It is ironic indeed to hear critics denounce the president’s commitment to defend America as “theological.” In fact, there is no greater leap of faith, no more unshakably theological conviction than the belief Biden, Levin, Postol and others appear to share — namely, that the United States will be perfectly safe if only it remains vulnerable to ballistic-missile attack.

Unfortunately, in their adherence to the outdated and morally problematic Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) theology of a bygone Cold War, the opponents’ “thousand-cuts” strategy well could precipitate the very outcome they claim to fear most. If enough legislators are rattled or bamboozled by the cacophony of arguments against missile defense, they may vote to cut or otherwise hobble Bush’s missile-defense program.

That would have a decidedly pernicious effect on the Russians. As former Strategic Defense Initiative director and arms-control negotiator Ambassador Henry Cooper has noted, the Kremlin will have no further incentive to agree jointly to end the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty regime that precludes development, testing and deployment of effective U.S. missile defenses. This would compel the president to proceed, as he has vowed to do, unilaterally.

The moment of truth on missile defense has arrived. Congress should not be distracted from the historic task at hand of defending the United States by those trying to bleed the Bush antimissile program to death. That would risk a far bloodier fate for all of us.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (www.securitypolicy. org) and a columnist for the Washington Times.

COPYRIGHT 2001 News World Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group