Ugh. I've been posting in a <a href="http://forums.macnn.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=45&t=001393
" target="_blank">thread in the MacNN lounge about this same topic</a>. Hopefully I can answer enough of these points in a concise enough manner to present you with another view.
1)Why we need NMD (National Missile Defense).
At first glance, Bush’s statement connecting NMD to Sept. 11 looks ridiculous (quite a few things he says are). Any reasonable person realizes that NMD will not protect against that type of attack. It’s not meant to do that. But, Bush’s comment is actually right on the mark. Why? Because for the first time Americans realize that we have enemies out there who are willing to go to great lengths to hurt our country. The US isn’t a safe little place anymore. We haven’t had a foreign attacker kill thousands on our soil in almost 60 years (Pearl Harbor), and that was only for a couple of hours.
So a few questions arise. How are we vulnerable? How do we reduce our vulnerability? Well right now we’re very vulnerable from the inside. The planes used in the WTC attack were obtained from US airports. So we tighten airport security as a result (how is for another debate). This is easily attainable, since it’s really just a matter of manpower. Technically we could start hand-searching every single piece of baggage tomorrow. The protection measures we can take against suitcase nukes are similarly easy to implement. Bush could order the Army, National Guard, and/or Border Patrol (with a serious manpower increase) to stand hand in had across our borders, search all those who legitimately cross, and reject/detain those who don’t have a right to be here or are carrying harmful substance. This could be implemented in a matter of a couple days.
So now our borders and our airports are secure. So what avenue of attack is left for our enemies? Ah, the infamous ICBM. Why? Cause we can’t shoot them down right now with a great degree of success, nor will we be able to for maybe 10 years. Now some of you say, “Oh but ICBMs are so much more expensive than suitcase nukes and they’re so much harder to deliver.” Nope. The last few generations of ICBMs carry multiple warheads. So a country could launch one missile and take out a few cities. A suitcase will only take out part of one city since it’s only one bomb and it has a smaller yield than a tactile nuke. So what about cost? A foreign country can choose to either develop their own missile system or buy/steal the plans for an existing system. Depending on the option the cost of this program would run anywhere from $250-500M. We’re talking multiple missiles with multiple warheads. A suitcase nuke costs, say, 25-50M. ICBMs aren’t so expensive now are they. You get a lot more bang for your buck.
2)We need to start now.
If you know about the development and production cycles for any large-scale missile project, you’d understand that these systems take an incredibly long time to design and produce. There’s a reason for the phrase “It ain’t rocket science.” To get a rocket design to launch successfully on a consistent basis is an extraordinarily difficult task. Most missile programs (design, development, production, support) last well over 20 years. How long did we use Mercury rockets? Saturn 5? The Space Shuttle? Minuteman? MX? Trident II? Building missiles isn’t like building computers. It’s vastly more difficult, because there is so much more that can go wrong.
Additionally, accuracy is slow in coming. The first missiles couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Now we can land multiple warheads onto multiple independent targets. But it’s taken 40 years to get to that point. So now we’re asking an explosion to hit a bullet (think of the old game “Missile Command”
. It’s not impossible, but it’s going to take a few years to work the kinks out.
In the mean time, smaller countries like India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iraq have been working on not just nuclear weapons, but also a means of delivery. Some of these countries are not about to sign an ABM-like treaty with the US. Also, missile technology has started to trickle down to the masses. It starts with things like SCUDs, and then that technology is advanced to larger platforms. So it’s entirely reasonable to assume that these countries and many others are going to start developing their own ICBMs.
As I mentioned before, NMD is going to take longer to develop than a standard ICBM. Those countries don’t care if an ICBM can hit the WTC; anywhere in or around NY is perfectly fine. After all we’re talking about nukes. NMD doesn’t work on the “horseshoes and hand grenades” principle. It’s more like darts. So we’re already behind the curve.
3) What political significance does the ABM Treaty have?
The ABM Treaty is really just symbolic right now, but maybe not how you think it is. Putin had to look like he wanted to keep ABM. Russia has become increasingly reliant on the US economically, much to the disdain of those who still hold pride in Mother Russia. So if Putin had rolled over on ABM, he would have committed political suicide. He had to come out in opposition to it to save face. But if he really cared about ABM, we’d be close to war right now. Instead, Putin has let ABM go and instead is concentrating on the reduction of current stockpiles. Both Bush and Putin have had extensive talks on this matter and have already agreed in principle to significantly reduce the number of nukes on both sides. Basically they’re just ironing out the details. From what I recall they’re talking about a reduction of 2,000-2,500 nukes each. That’s a very significant portion of both countries’ inventories. Also ABM really isn’t that big of a deal compared to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, SALT II, START, and START II. Those treaties are all designed to significantly reduce the design, production, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons (testing existing weapons is different). The US cannot and will not back out of these treaties for numerous reasons.
Others here have mentioned that we could test NMD without violating the treaty or that we could have amended the ABM treaty to allow for this. The fundamental principle of the ABM treaty is that no signee can field an ABM system. Well, if we’re not going to field a system then why bother testing one in the first place. Bush did the right thing. Basically he’s being honest with the world. He’s telling them that we feel we need this system, and that we aren’t going to be wishy-washy about it. The US has also offered to implement this system abroad to help protect our allies.
Based on all of this, I just don’t see how a person could reasonably be against NMD. Of course, you’re more than welcome to rebut my argument; as I am quite open minded on this issue. I hate nuclear weapons (and thus the need for NMD) as much as anyone, but the sad fact is that they’re here to stay.