June 6, 2002
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Excuse me, but where's the outrage?
Here we are, officially leaving the confines of the
Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and hardly a peep can be heard
from the arms-control crowd.
For years, they warned us not to withdraw. They told us how the
treaty formed the "cornerstone of strategic stability." They
assured us that a document binding two nations to Mutually Assured
Destruction (MAD)-the idea that neither side would launch a missile
attack if it knew it would suffer a devastating retaliatory
strike-made the world safer.
Russia wouldn't be the only one objecting to our withdrawal,
they fumed. So would China and all of Europe. Our "go-it-alone"
attitude would leave us without a friend in the world and the world
without a hope of peace. And all so we could pursue our half-baked
delusions about building a missile defense.
But wait. How many of these dire predictions panned out? Almost
none. Sure, the Russians complained (sort of) when President Bush
announced in December that the United States would be withdrawing
in six months. But it's clear now that the Kremlin produced these
muted theatrics solely for the benefit of hard-liners at home.
Russia's actions tell the real story: Russian President Vladimir
Putin just signed an agreement with President Bush to slash our
respective nuclear arsenals.
But why be surprised? Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, it was
clear the treaty was as outdated and meaningless for Russia as it
was for us. The Soviet Union had signed and supported it because
their leaders feared a U.S. missile-defense system would allow the
United States to bomb Moscow, then fend off the retaliatory
strikes. Now, virtually no one in Russia believes we have, or ever
had, any intention of launching a "first strike." And virtually all
realize that the real threat for both countries comes from rogue
regimes such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
The Russians' future is with us, and they know it. In addition
to agreeing to cut their nuclear arsenal, they just signed up to
become a junior member of NATO. Even with Putin-a former KGB
officer-at the helm, they view us as strategic partners in the real
war of the 21st century: the war on terrorism. The ABM Treaty has
no place in such a world.
Indeed, it's been clear for a while that the pact had to go.
Barely a decade after it was signed in 1972, President Reagan
realized that the stalemate the ABM Treaty enshrined was
untenable-and that the Cold-War mindset that inspired it was
blocking the road to the more reliable peace that could flow from
weapons reductions and missile defense. He became the first U.S.
president to decry its faults and declare that America needed out
President Reagan's determination to build a missile shield that
the Soviets knew they couldn't afford to match or counteract did as
much to bring about the Soviet Union's demise as any Vaclav Havel
speech or Lech Walesa rally.
When Soviet president Mikhael Gorbachev concluded President
Reagan wouldn't be deterred, he ordered the leader of Hungary to
open his border to Austria. This meant those who suffered most
under the Soviets' iron fist were free-and that dictatorial regimes
had to begin respecting human rights or watch their citizens flee
en masse to the West. What followed was a series of events-regime
changes, etc.-viewed as amazing only by those who don't grasp the
way power truly works.
It's ironic that modern-day peaceniks complained loudest when
President Bush announced America's withdrawal from the treaty,
given the enormous contribution to world peace President Reagan
made merely by threatening to do so years earlier.
Now we can finally develop the kind of robust missile-defense
program the ABM Treaty prohibited. We don't have to limit ourselves
to a single land-based site-or slow the speed of our interceptors,
as we did for years-to avoid violating the agreement.
Most importantly, we don't have to remain vulnerable in an
increasingly dangerous world.
Feulner is the president of The Heritage Foundation
(www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire
ABM Treaty: Not With a Bang...
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
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