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"To provide for the common defense"

By Charles Bloomer
web posted July 2, 2001

One of the few legitimate functions of the federal government, as enumerated in the Constitution, is to provide for the common defense. That requirement would lead one to believe that the government would provide the appropriate level of defense for any perceived threats. Many Americans (a majority, in fact) believe that there is in place now a defense system, a "shield", to protect the population from the threat of ballistic missile attack. Those Americans are sadly misinformed. In fact, no missile defense exists today and the American public is unprotected.

In 1999, the federal government passed legislation, supported by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, declaring that the United States would deploy a national missile defense. Although President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law, he made no effort to further the development of a missile defense system. President George W. Bush is committed to developing, testing and deploying national missile defense to defend America.

In a radical departure from the previous administration, President Bush will base his national defense decisions on the best interests of the United States. No other nation will determine our defense needs, nor will he allow any other nation to have veto authority over our national security. Agreements with other countries, although important in the overall national defense strategy, will not take precedence over our own decisions. The concept of putting our interests first has fatal ramifications for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty - and rightly so.

The ABM treaty is a Cold War relic that prohibits us from defending ourselves from legitimate threats. According to the Center for Security Policy (www.security-policy.org), 34 countries currently have ballistic missiles. Many are working to give their missiles longer ranges. Included in this number are Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, all considered "rogue" nations. While these rogue states do not currently have the capability to hit the US homeland, their missiles threaten our troops overseas and our allies. In addition, as many as 14 countries export ballistic missiles and related technology. Why should we allow a bilateral agreement with a now-defunct entity (USSR) prevent us from defending ourselves from unstable, belligerent nations?

The importance of a national missile defense system was highlighted in 1996 when a senior Chinese general publicly threatened to bomb Los Angeles during the Taiwan crisis. While politicians may declare that China is not a threat, merely a trading partner, the same could not be said for Iraq if Saddam Hussein acquires a long range missile capability. The half-hearted efforts by the United Nations have not prevented Iraq from continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction. How will we defend ourselves if Iraq manages to mount those weapons on a long range missile?

The president's attitude, placing US interests above other agreements, does not mean he intends for America to become isolationist. The United States will cooperate with our allies to expand missile defense on a global scale that could protect NATO, our friends in the Middle East, and our allies in the Pacific. To do so requires that America be strong and unassailable. We would be unable to go to the assistance of our allies if we are attacked and suffer significant damage or casualties. A national missile defense system would protect the US and our interests, allowing us to apply resources to repel aggression against our allies and friends.

A missile defense system is a threat to no one, Russian bluster notwithstanding. The ability to defend ourselves from missile attack prevents us from being vulnerable to threats and coercion, and severely reduces the chance of damage in the case of an accidental launch by Russia or China.

President Bush has made national missile defense the cornerstone of his defense policy. This administration is determined to develop and deploy missile defense, while maintaining and improving our conventional military readiness. The technology and resources are available to do both. National missile defense is a bargain when compared to the potential cost of a nuclear detonation over an American city.

To quote the Center for Security Policy: "We need to protect ourselves from all dangers threatening America and its people, including terrorist 'suitcase bombs', NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) weapons of mass destruction, cyber-war threats against critical information infrastructure - and ballistic missiles."

To do less would be irresponsible and immoral.

Charles Bloomer is a retired US Navy submarine officer and a senior writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com. © 2001 Charles Bloomer

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