Bushs New Star Wars
time is now, cries President George W. Bush, for us to embrace a
nuclear missile shield and forsake the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In the wake of Sept. 11, a truly
harrowing event demonstrating the threat of terrorists and the rogue
states that harbor them, it appears that it is indeed time for nuclear
defense. Yet this package Mr. Bush proposes will do more harm than
good, diverting money that could be used to stimulate the U.S. economy
to create an ineffectual shield that could ultimately result in
national embarrassment and possibly create a target inciting further
At a time when economists have acknowledged that the U.S. economy
is slipping into the quicksand of recession, it is no time to use
taxpayer money on a project that will not benefit the economy. The
plan calls for the construction of a missile defense in Alaska,
outside of the continental United States. Most of the money would
end up in the deep pockets of government contractors, and benefitting
only a handful of Americans.
Instead, the Bush administration should be providing tax relief
to low-income families to promote consumer spending, as well as
college credits to encourage higher education. Following Mr. Bushs
tax rebate, and the cessation of the estate tax, more and more money
is stagnating in the accounts of the wealthy, bringing economic
growth to a standstill. Consumer spending must be incited, not contractor
Concurrently, there is slight evidence that such a missile shield
would be effective. In preliminary trials, only one of three decoy
missiles were shot down. Does a thirty-three percent success rate
warrant profligate government spending? Moreover, experts have indicated
that the types of missiles used by rogue nations are not reflected
in the governments tests. The Pentagon has assumed the missiles
being fired would be medium-range intercontinental ballistic missiles
which spin in a football-like fashion to ensure targeting accuracy.
Ballistics launched by rogue nations are more likely to follow wobbly
trajectories, the kind of missiles that might not hit Central Park
but could certainly hit New York. These missiles, they counter,
would be even harder to hit than the decoys proposed in the governments
tests. If the success rate thus falls below thirty-three percent,
is this reason enough to initiate a multibillion dollar project?
Following the events of Sept. 11, the United States cannot afford
to look like an ailing, foolish superpower. The missile shield would
embarrass the nation, damaging our role in international diplomacy.
Finally, the shield would serve as a bulls eye for terrorists
and rogue nuclear states. The world has seen that the U.S. is vulnerable,
and nations like Iraq can only hope to capitalize on such vulnerability.
The failure of preliminary tests is no secret. A missed weapon would
make the U.S. look defenseless, and serve as a call-to-arms to anti-American
extremists everywhere. Who could resist an opportunity to deal the
U.S. another crippling, and even more devastating blow? Without
the shield, such a strike would be tragic. With it, it would not
only be an I Told You So to such countries as Russia, which opposes
dissolution of the ABM treaty, but would also dramatically reduce
the global negotiating power of the United States.
In short, we cannot allow the Bush administration to play off the
fear of the American people. The missile shield is Reagans
Star Wars program in disguise, but with a higher price tag and potentially
deleterious effects. Oppose the shield and send a message to terrorists
everywhere, that fear shall not dictate our foreign policy.