As Safe As Possible
Let's face it: Perfect safety doesn't exist. No matter what we do,
there will always be those who want to kill us because they hate
our freedoms, because they hate democracy, or just because they
That's why we need a missile-defense system -- today more than
The Bush administration knows this. It recently issued "National
Security Policy Directive 23," which makes missile defense the law
of the land. In it, the president ordered the Pentagon to deploy
long-range missile interceptors in Alaska and California by
September of next year.
My colleagues and I at The Heritage Foundation have supported
missile defense for more than 20 years. And though the threats are
different today than they were when we first proposed it, in many
ways they are greater.
For decades, our main adversary was the Soviet Union. Moscow had
thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at the United States -- and we
were ready to fire back with thousands of our own. But that was all
we could do: Fire back. An attack would lead to Mutually Assured
Destruction (MAD), a catastrophic scenario in which millions on
both sides would die.
President Reagan envisioned a world where Americans would be
protected from attack, and the Strategic Defense Initiative was
born. The Soviets had no answer. They could only spend and spend on
more nuclear weapons, until their entire system collapsed.
Today's threats come from terrorists and from rogue states like
North Korea, Iran and Syria. We know that all these countries have,
or are developing, weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to
deliver them. Yet we remain defenseless. A single nation or
terrorist group could hold the U.S. hostage if it pointed a nuclear
missile at one of our cities.
MAD won't work against a terrorist group. As the 9/11 hijackers
showed, they're often willing to give their lives to kill
Americans. We could always respond with a barrage of nuclear
weapons. But the terrorists would consider our counter-attack a
small price to pay if they could wipe out a U.S. city or two.
Japan's prime minister understands this. Junichiro Koizumi recently
told reporters that North Korea shouldn't be allowed to blackmail
the international community with nuclear weapons, and that his
country should weigh the benefits of missile defense.
But under the White House's plan, Tokyo won't have to build its own
umbrella. When it's fully deployed, our missile defense system will
consist of layers of protection and will be extended to protect our
allies and our troops overseas, not just our own soil.
Of course, some will say investing in missile defense is a waste of
money, because such a complicated system can never work. They've
been saying that for years, even in the face of a series of
Now they have to ignore real-life evidence, like the Iraqi
al-Samoud missile that was brought down near U.S. military
headquarters on March 27. An army analysis shows the missile would
have landed on or near our Coalition's ground operations
Such a direct hit would have been disastrous. Ground forces
commander Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and many of his top lieutenants
were at the headquarters, along with an embedded CNN crew.
Instead, a Patriot missile destroyed the Iraqi weapon. It was
close. Some debris landed on the roof of the war room. But all
inside were safe -- thanks to an effective missile-defense
Since 9/11, we've aggressively pursued our enemies. We're on the
right track, but we must be ready to play defense, too.
An effective missile defense ensures that if our enemies do attack,
we can defuse the threat, and move forward unharmed. In a dangerous
world, that's about as close as we can get to perfect safety.
Feulner is the president of The Heritage