National Missile Defense
The Cold War is over, but the world continues to be a dangerous place due to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) and the means to deliver them. Today, many rogue nations, such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, have -- or will soon have -- the capability to launch a ballistic missile against the United States or our allies.
While the United States has the military capability to respond to any military threat, Senator Thompson does not believe deterrence alone is an effective means to prevent rogue nations from launching an attack. He does not wish to see American cities become hostages when our interests elsewhere in the world are challenged by a rogue state. If we have the means to deny a potential adversary this capability, then we should do so. The only way to combat this threat is for the United States to deploy a robust, multi-tiered National Missile Defense system.
In 1998, a bipartisan commission headed by former defense secretary Don Rumsfeld challenged the Clinton Administration by concluding that rogue states like North Korea and Iran could develop an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile within five years of deciding to do so. Shortly thereafter, North Korea surprised our intelligence agencies by successfully launching a three- stage rocket over Japan, demonstrating the technological know-how to hit the United States with a small warhead.
In September 1999, the Intelligence Community released a new National Intelligence Estimate of the ballistic missile threat. This report asserted that "during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face ICBM threats from Russia, China and North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq." North Korea could convert its Taepo Dong-1 space launch vehicle to deliver a light payload?sufficient for a biological or chemical attack?to the United States. And Iran's missile program is not far behind. In short, some rogue states may have ICBMs much sooner than previously thought, and those missiles will be more sophisticated and dangerous than previously estimated.
All of these reports confirm the fact that the United States is faced with the real threat of a missile attack. Senator Thompson believes that the best way to confront these threats and protect American lives, is to develop and deploy a multi-tiered missile defense system. He strongly favors a layered missile defense system that includes sea-based interceptors to destroy enemy missiles as soon as they are launched, spaced-based interceptors to destroy enemy missiles as they enter space, and a land-based system to intercept missiles during re-entry. Only a layered defense with multiple systems can protect us from a missile attack.
Senator Thompson believes that, while we need to work with our Allies to address their concerns, we also need to convince the Russians that we are no longer adversaries, and that our missile defense system is not directed at them. We all share the same concerns regarding attacks from rogue states, terrorist groups, and accidental launches. Ultimately, though, the United States must do what is in our national interest.
Delaying missile defense won't delay the threats, which continue to grow. Continued American vulnerability to ballistic missile attack serves only the interests of those who would exploit that vulnerability. Many of these nations have used the threat posed by their missile programs to extract concessions from the United States and our Allies. A prominent example of this is the Clinton Administration's appeasement of North Korea, which now receives the most U.S. aid of any country in Asia, despite that country's hostility. Further, we have a legal and moral responsibility to defend the American people, and deliberate vulnerability neglects that responsibility. As Henry Kissinger, former National Security Adviser and author of the ABM Treaty, said, "Deliberate vulnerability when the technologies are available to avoid it cannot be a strategic objective, cannot be a political objective, and cannot be a moral objective of any American president." For the United States to deliberately remain defenseless against foreign missile attack is unconscionable.
Today, the United States spends over $10 billion a year to counter domestic terrorism and prepare for the consequences of attacks that use weapons of mass destruction, yet spends less than $2 billion a year on missile defense. This is less than one-tenth of 1% of the federal budget, and it is money well spent. But we need to do more. In addition to devoting more attention and resources at the federal, state and local levels to deal with these types of threats after they occur, we also need to prevent them by defending ourselves before they occur. That is why we must maintain our commitment to a national missile defense, and deploy a system as soon as possible.
The first responsibility of government is the defense of the country, the people, and our way of life. And while it is clear we have a legal and constitutional obligation to build a National Missile Defense, we also have a moral responsibility to protect our country and our families.
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