June 13, 2002 | Commentary on Missile Defense
Such a statement may sound puzzling in an age of "dirty" bombs
and other terrorist threats, but it's true.
That's because the United States now has officially withdrawn
from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, a pact we signed in
1972 with the former Soviet Union. As a result, we no longer face
the treaty's roadblocks to creating a missile defense that can
shield the American people, our armed forces and our allies from
the ultimate weapon: long-range ballistic missiles.
With the treaty gone, the engineers and scientists who work on
missile defense finally can do something they've been barred from
doing for three decades-innovate.
The ABM Treaty always was a Luddite solution to the nuclear arms
race, because it severely limited not only the use of a
missile-defense system, but the development and testing of one as
well. Indeed, its terms were broad enough that treaty supporters
used it in recent years to impose restrictions on anti-missile
systems that didn't even exist in 1972.
The treaty's demise, however, opens a wide range of
opportunities to American scientists and engineers. Here are just
some of the things they can do in the near future that will help us
deploy a working missile defense:
There are many other options, of course, and the list of what we
can do surely will lengthen considerably now that we've shed the
ABM straitjacket. But a note of caution: After 30 years of being
told what not to do with missile defense, scientists and engineers
may be tempted to experiment with every option under the sun.
That temptation must be resisted. We need to remain focused. Our
missile-defense program already is lagging behind the threat. (It's
been four years since North Korea tested its first long-range
missile.) There's an immediate need to get at least a limited
missile defense in the field.
America must concentrate on the options that offer fast deployments and make these systems effective as quickly as possible. Our adversaries aren't sitting still-and neither should we.
Spring is the F.M. Kirby Fellow in National Security Policy
at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-base
public policy institute.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire