What Threats are Out There?
Some Facts About Missile Defense..
The threat of ballistic missiles is real and continues to grow - while we dither!
But seriously, who/what is out there to threaten us, now that the Soviet Union is gone?
The end of the Cold War did not end the proliferation threat—indeed, it has accelerated in the past ten years. The U.S. intelligence community estimates over 20 Third World nations have ballistic missiles capable of carrying chemical, biological or even nuclear warheads. With such missiles scattered throughout the world—possibly some on ships, no country is beyond the range of possible attack.
In a 1994 Executive Order, President Clinton declared the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery is "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States." and ordered a "national emergency" to deal with this threat. But while the threat grows, the U.S. response is too little, possibly too late.
The "rogue nation" threat is very real, e.g., from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria and North Korea. The June 1998 bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission concluded that any of these states could, within five years of deciding to build an ICBM, threaten the United States with missile attack. The Clinton Administration rejected this assessment, and continued to claim it would take at least 10-15 years before such a threat could develop. Then, just six weeks later on August 31, 1998, North Korea launched its Taepo Dong ICBM over Japan and almost to U.S. territory—proving that even an economically destitute rogue state has the where-with-all to attack the U.S. if it wants. Now, Russia and China have been joined by North Korea in selling such rockets on the open market to anyone with money—a source of hard cash, you see.
These rogue states want long-range missiles to threaten American cities to blackmail us—and, by threatening their neighbors and our allies, to frustrate our ability to build coalitions in their part of the world. Just imagine the trouble President Bush would have had forming the coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1990 had Hussein the ability to threaten U.S. cities—or the cities of Europe. The Senate approved of U.S. involvement by a margin of only 3 votes, as it was.
Thus, at stake is U.S. ability to project power and protect our strategic interests around the world. Effective defenses are needed to counter these growing threats, which could turn deterrence theory against us—i.e., without needed defenses, we will become the deterree rather than remain the deterrer.
There are numerous scenarios that could send one or more missiles toward U.S. cities—indeed we have come close to such scenarios in real life.
In 1995, a Norwegian weather sounding rocket was detected by Russian radar and mistaken by Russia’s military bureaucracy as an unprovoked "first strike" U.S. missile. Someone in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs forgot to tell the Ministry of Defense that the Norwegians had told them the time and place of this entirely benign rocket launch. Although it was seriously considered by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he did not respond to this false alarm and order a counter-attack. If the Russians had panicked, this case of mistaken identity could have led to the destruction of one or more American cities.
Possible escalation from a crisis looms over the security of the U.S. and its citizens. Recall the Cuban Missile Crisis, an escalation that brought the U.S. and Soviet Union closer to nuclear war than at any other time during the Cold War. This could happen again—China has warned that U.S. efforts to honor its commitments to Taiwan could escalate into a missile strike against U.S. cities—Los Angeles by name.
In this context, a major threat—that the informed American people can actively help alleviate—is our own government's rigid adherence to the 1972 ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty. This treaty prevents the U.S. from deploying already existing technology to defend America. It is costing us money and time—and one day soon could cost us dearly in lives and treasure.
President Clinton vetoed the FY1996 Defense Authorization Bill, which mandated the deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) system to protect the continental U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska by 2003. Last year, he signed a similar Bill into law, which called for building effective NMD system as soon as technologically possible.
For years, polls have shown that 60-70 percent of America's citizens are unaware that they are not protected from attack by even a single ballistic missile, and more than 80 percent express outrage when the truth about our lack of a missile defense is presented to them—especially when they learn it is a matter of our national policy to keep them vulnerable.
As with many complex issues, the devil is in the details in building the best defense to ward off current and future missile threats. According to a 1995 Defense Science Board Task Force Report, a particularly troublesome threat involves multiple warheads released early in a ballistic missile's flight—during its "boost-phase"—as its rocket engines burn out. The bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission projected this threat could develop within five years—from 1998.
A boost-phase defense is the only sure way to defeat such missiles, by destroying their multiple warheads early—before they are released. The best boost phase defense would be deployed in space. However, no boost-phase defense is possible under the constraints of the 1972 ABM Treaty.
It seems logical that a treaty would be declared void if one or more of the countries that originally entered into the agreement ceased to exist. The Soviet Union has been dissolved and its constituent states are now independent. Despite this fact, America's liberal policy community promotes the ABM Treaty as vital to the arms control movement, and is seeking to make it more restrictive, and maintains that it is the "cornerstone of strategic stability"—Cold War code language for the mutual suicide pact with the former Soviet Union called mutual assured destruction, or MAD. Henry Kissinger, the architect of the ABM Treaty, has pointed out the dubious value of adopting MAD as a matter of policy during the Cold War—and called it "nuts" today.
Continuing our slavish adherence to the ABM Treaty is a serious threat to the national security interests of the United States because it ties the hands of
America’s scientists and engineers—limiting the American taxpayer to the least effective, most expensive defenses that take longest to build. It should be abandoned now.
What are the possible solutions???
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common
defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution of
the United States of America.
So begins the U.S. Constitution that all government officials, elected and appointed, are sworn to uphold—among their first defined duties is to "provide for the common defense." Insisting upon the mutual suicide pact that is the basis of the ABM Treaty is completely out of step with the Founders’ stated intent when writing and signing the Constitution on behalf of all American citizens.
Undoubtedly, this is why most Americans—about two-thirds, by various polls—are first startled and then become angry when they learn that, as a matter of policy, they are kept vulnerable to even a single ballistic missile fired deliberately or by accident. Adhering to the mutual assured destruction, aptly called MAD, doctrine that underlies the ABM Treaty seems ludicrous to the average American.
America must choose a strategy to protect itself against ballistic missiles. First, we must adopt a national policy to build the most effective defense possible as soon as possible. Second, we must—from a technical and engineering perspective and without regard to the ABM Treaty—pick the most effective defenses that can be built soonest—and then complement these early defenses with additional layers of defenses to achieve the most effective defense possible. Third, and after we have settled on the first two steps, we must craft our diplomatic strategy, including our arms control policy.
Agree on National Policy. Our policy must be to build effective defenses as soon as possible.
Actually, the Clinton Administration inherited such a policy—approved by a Democratic-controlled Congress—but quickly abandoned it and put effective defenses on the back burner. The Administration asserted there was no pressing threat—except for building theater defenses for our overseas troops, friends and allies. Even there, only defenses that clearly could not also defend America were developed—others that could do both were stalled or canceled.
In 1996, Congress passed a Missile Defense Act calling for defending America—and President Clinton vetoed it. In 1999, Congress passed by veto-proof margins a Missile Defense Act directing that effective defenses be built as soon as technologically feasible—this time President Clinton signed the mandate into law. But then he claimed the words didn’t really mean what they said—and he continues to delay a decision to deploy any defense whatsoever—never mind effective defenses called for by law. Now, it is claimed that he will make a decision shortly, perhaps in June or July.
Furthermore, a ground-based site was chosen in 1997 as the primary basis of this decision—then designated to be made this year just before the election. It was picked more to make only minor changes to the ABM Treaty rather than because of its effectiveness, cost or the speed with which it can be built. The original intent was to conduct R&D for three years and then, if the threat warranted it, deploy in another three years. We have watched over the past three years while the Administration’s so-called "3 + 3" program has morphed into a "3 + 5" program; and as the estimated cost of the first site doubled, then doubled again, and most recently doubled yet a third time, now to something on the order of $25 billion—incidentally, what a ground-based site was known to cost at the beginning of the Clinton Administration.
Regrettably, the Administration’s program is a charade; it has to do with appearing to favor deciding to build some defense in time for the November
election—because polls show Americans favor building defenses rather than not building them. But this program was designed to fail—to
self-destruct. And that plan is playing itself out as higher costs are finally coming out and other weaknesses of ground-based only defenses are being
Build Effective Defenses As Soon As Possible.
If competent engineers were to seek to build effective defenses without the political burdens of the ABM Treaty, it is doubtful they would begin with ground-based defenses—that take shots only as attacking warheads and associated decoys approach their intended targets.
First, competent engineers know layered defenses are required if the defense is to be effective—and the first shot should be taken as early as possible,
preferably while the attacking rocket is rising from its launch pad and before it can release its (possibly multiple) deadly warheads. Subsequent layers would take shots at the attacking missiles and their warheads as they transit space and begin their decent toward their intended targets. And competent engineers would want as many shots as possible to assure the best defense possible.
Second, engineers would observe that they do not know where or when a missile might be launched toward the U.S.—so, they would want a global defense that would not be sensitive to that uncertainty. After examining any schoolchild’s globe, they would notice that most of the world is covered by water—and a little checking would show that the U.S. Navy has ships in international waters around the world today, and they could be used as platforms for defensive interceptors. Many of these ships are Aegis Cruisers that can launch defensive interceptors to defend the fleet against aircraft and cruise missile attack. All that is needed is to provide ballistic missile-defense interceptors to be launched from the very same vertical launch system (VLS) used for the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Standard Missile used for air defense.
Forward-based ships could launch interceptors to destroy attacking missiles in their ascent phase, when they are still going up. In some cases, they could hit them in their boost-phase before their rockets burn out. Ships in mid-ocean and nearer the U.S. coastline could hit attacking missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere and after they begin decent toward the U.S. homeland.
Further checking would show the American taxpayer has already bought most of the infrastructure required for such a sea-based defense—and existing air defenses and modernization programs only need to be modified to defend against ballistic missiles. The additional cost for providing a sea-based ballistic missile defense capability is minimal—much less than just the latest cost growth in the ground-based NMD system. And—get this—a sea-based system could begin operations in under four years—much before even the optimistic supporters of ground-based defenses now claim.
This is a no-brainer from an engineering point-of-view. Sea-based defenses are clearly the place to begin building a global defense for Americans at
home and for our overseas troops, friends and allies. Subsequent layers of the effective defense could be based in the air, in space, and on the ground.
Abandon the ABM Treaty.
The only problem with a sea-based national missile defense is it violates Article V of the ABM Treaty, which bans development, testing and deployment of sea-based ABM systems. Actually, this should be no problem because the ABM Treaty should have become null and void when the Soviet Union went on the ash heap of history. Its constraints live on because of our infatuation with that Cold War relic, not because of a matter of law.
So, if we are to have the most effective, least expensive defenses that can be built soonest, U.S. arms control policy must change. Rather than perpetuating a mutual suicide pact with Russia as a foreign policy objective, we should make a mutual survival pact our objective. We should unambiguously break with past Clinton Administration policy.
In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin proposed that the U.S. and Russia work together to redirect the Strategic Defense Initiative to take advantage of Russian technology and build a joint global defense for the world community. Unfortunately, we did not complete the negotiations toward that end before the Clinton Administration changed course. Perhaps, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will have the vision to pick up Yeltsin’s 1992 position—and this time finish the job.
Incidentally, Boris Yeltsin in the same 1992 United Nations speech proposed the deeper reductions that became the START II Treaty, which was signed in 1992 and—finally—recently ratified by Russia. So, claims that building defenses is incompatible with negotiations on deeper reductions in offensive nuclear weapons are just plain wrong. We negotiated seriously on such a joint defense while completing the START II Treaty in 1992—and we were nearing a new agreement enabling joint ballistic missile defenses, including sea-based defenses. But the Clinton Administration abandoned these pro-defense negotiations—and regressed to the MAD idea that mutual vulnerability should be our objective and clichés about the ABM Treaty being the cornerstone of strategic stability.
America’s political leaders must make clear that they intend to live up to their oaths to provide for the common defense. The ABM Treaty stands in
the way, and it must go—cooperatively if possible, unilaterally if necessary. But it must go—very soon, so American engineers can build truly
effective defenses their genius makes possible.