October 19, 2001

The case for missile defense

Bob Schaffer

     How ridiculous it would be to start leaving the front door unlocked just because burglars had recently found it easier to enter through the back window. When it comes to national defense, America will regret leaving its front door wide open.
     Our military's preparation and emphasis on modern warfare proved insufficient in preventing last months terrorist attacks. Appropriately, Congress reacted by devoting greater resources to preventing future acts of terrorism and compensating for certain weaknesses. But the needs for modern defenses have not diminished. In fact, they have only become more acute.
      The United States needs to broaden its response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It is not enough to focus on stopping terrorist attacks using commercial airlines, or the buildup of air power in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, or covert operations in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden. The United States must not neglect building a defense against ballistic missiles and the possibility of terrorists making an unauthorized launch of ballistic missiles. Instead of the loss of 6,000 lives, the United States could lose 6 million.
      Even the accidental launch of ballistic missiles is possible, for example, from Russian nuclear-missile-carrying submarines where the command and control of nuclear missiles is much less secure than for U.S. ballistic missile submarines. Russian land-based or road-mobile ICBMs are also less secure than American weapon systems and could similarly be taken over by terrorists and launched. Nor are accidents unthinkable. As recently as January, 1995, a Norwegian sounding rocket activated Boris Yeltsin's portable nuclear command briefcase for initiating a retaliatory missile strike against the United States.
      In the early 1990s, the United States recognized the threat of an accidental or unauthorized (terrorist) launch of ballistic missiles in President Bush's plan for building a ballistic missile defense called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS). To protect the United States from accidental or terrorist launches, or rogue nations like North Korea, Mr. Bush proposed building a space-based defense including high-energy lasers and Brilliant Pebbles interceptors. Unfortunately, Congress underfunded the program, and then-President Clinton discontinued it.
      The United States faces serious international implications affecting its security. On Sept. 11, the same day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, China signed a memorandum of understanding to provide economic and technical aid to the Taliban. For two years, Chinese companies have assisted the Taliban in its efforts to improve its telephone system in Kabul.
      Unfortunately, the Congress is considering using the war on terrorism as an excuse to cut its ballistic missile defense programs, especially space-based defenses, evidently unaware of how China has threatened it with long-range missiles and is engaged in an aggressive arms buildup. China's ambitious buildup includes its DF-31 ICBM and JL-2 SLBM. China's road-mobile DF-31, which has been flight-tested and forms part of its Long Wall Project aimed at the United States, its forces, and allies particularly in the Pacific.
      The war on terrorism extends to Iraq, which has helped equip Osama bin Laden with chemical weapons. It extends to the war on drugs as drugs are used to finance terrorism. Much of the world's supply of heroin comes from Afghanistan. The war on terrorism also extends to U.S. relations with other countries and alliances, and the alliances China is forming to increase its international influence and control.
      Beneath the war on terrorism is a reluctance in the United States to end its vulnerability to ballistic missiles, an unwillingness to confront their use by terrorists or in acts of war by countries such as China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and others. Most importantly, the Congress, in passing the $343 billion House defense authorization bill, cut its space-based ballistic missile defense programs by $400 million, which will continue to leave millions of Americans vulnerable to destruction by ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
      If the United States is to succeed in its war against terrorism, it must act decisively against bin Laden, confiscate his nuclear devices and destroy his chemical weapons. At the same time America must guard itself against ballistic missiles, realizing that ballistic missiles can be hijacked by terrorists. It must rebuild its military strength and intelligence. It must build the best ballistic missile defense it can by accelerating its Navy Theater Wide program, and emphasizing space-based defenses, including high-energy lasers, Brilliant Pebbles interceptors, and particle beams.
      Thriving democracy, abundant liberty and glorious freedom are the legacy of our republic. These profound American qualities continue to be the envy of the world and the hope for humanity. They only exist today because of God's blessings and America's commitment to a robust and proficient defensive capability. Flinging wide open America's front door is an invitation to an even greater, and more cataclysmic frontal attack upon our liberty.

 

Rep. Bob Schaffer is a Colorado Republican.