©Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Missile Defense-A call to action
As America continues its march into the 21st century, amid one of the longest economic expansions in our history, coupled with an unparreled respite of peace, an issue farthest from the publics mind at this time is the need for a comprehensive ballistic missile defense program to effectively shield the United States from a danger which if not is already upon us, will be in the near future.
Why in the current international environment should America be demanding from its leaders a program such as one I am advocating here?
With the end of the fifty year cold war stand off between the United States and the Soviet Union, the world let out a collective sigh of relief. It would have seemed that the threat which was prevalent on every ones mind for a generation, namely that of a global thermonuclear war, had subsided. This in fact cannot be denied. Relations between the United States and Russia, though not perfect, are far more relaxed that at any other time in recent history. The two nations work together now on a variety of issues, from Bosnia to the new International Space Station.
However the collapse of the cold war standoff, has indeed left a vacuum on the international stage. While there is no longer a global standoff, where the threat was hundreds of missiles raining down on US cities, a new and perhaps even more dangerous threat has emerged, and continues to grow by the day.
This danger that is now facing us I will refer to as a triad. It's focus is now divided among three different, "events" They are as follows.
1)Accidental launch. This was always present during the cold war. Though now with a disintegration of command; control, and communication, what many in the military refer to as C3, facilities in the Russian nuclear arsenal the potential has now expanded geometrically. A blatant example of this was the recent misinterpretation by Russian radar controllers in 1995 of a Norwegian weather satellite launch, and mistakenly took it, however momentarily for a US preemptive launch against Russia.
As fate would have it, the correct assessment of the situation was made. This is but one of many examples where false information could lead to an accidental launch against the United States. Can anyone argue that in an event such as this that our only choice of response should be to retaliate, thereby costing the lives of potentially millions of innocent civilians, or to do nothing and accept the horror as a pure accident?
Having an effective defense against a limited "attack" such as this gives an American president the option to save both the lives of US, as well as Russian citizens. A limited shield such as this, does not upset the strategic balance of terror still referred to as M.A.D.
2)The second threat emerging is from that of the so called rogue nations. Most will agree that this reference would refer to states that sponsor terrorism, and whose policies generally are in opposition of the United States. Many would agree that most of these nations are in the middle east, but also included in this list
would be North Korea, as well as potentially China, indirectly by their support of nations which are by there nature hostile to US policy.
These nations pose two separate types of threats in of themselves. The first is the actual launch in of itself against the US or it's allies. Albeit in a limited manner, as there arsenals are still in the developing stage.
The second threat is what many call "political blackmail" This is generally thought as a situation in where a President and national policy makers are faced with a situation such as a small "crisis" in which a smaller state such as North Korea threatens a limited nuclear attack. The nation in question need not even carry out it's threat and might very well still accomplish it's goals and policy objectives. However a US President who can look into the eye of an advisory and know that they know there missiles do not pose a danger to us, allows the trump card to be removed from there hand.
As a side note to this second type of danger, one could argue that the Russian people and government face this same type of danger from rogue nations. Given their proximity to the middle east as well as their geographically large boundaries, a whole host of nations could present a future Russian president with the same type of dilemma. As a bold move, for both strategic stability as well as security at home, a future president could offer to include the protection of Russia with a future perhaps joint missile defense regime.
This would also go along way towards alleviating fears by the Russian defense establishment of a unilateral US missile defense.
The details would require long and dedicated effort, but the trust and confidence building, as well as stability which could result from such an effort, would more than outweigh any potential monetary costs that would be incurred by both nations.
3)The third and final "new" threat facing the United States, and perhaps Russia as the 21st century unfolds is the question of China. This nation of some nearly 2 billion people contains almost 1/3 of the planets population. It's geographic location, as well as it's enormous size and abundant supply of natural resources makes it a vital player on the world stage.
The course of behavior this nation takes in the near future as well as the way in which the United States responds to it will quite possibly determine the future of humanity it self for the next 100 years if not more. The Peoples Republic Of China has with in its grasp the ability to plant the seeds of a second cold war.
It's geometric increases in military spending coupled with the dramatic cut backs in US defense spending during the 1990s is allowing the stage to be set for future US policy makers to be placed into a situation where we could be in direct opposition with a nation whose armed forces are some fifty times the size of ours. Should China continue to modernize and expand its conventional military forces, this will place a US president, should a crisis develop, with a frightening choice.
Set against the back drop of overwhelming conventional forces, policy makers in the United States might be faced with initiating a preemptive nuclear strike, or make concessions to avoid the potential consequences of such an action.
The US public must understand, that should we continue to cut our conventional military posture around the world, or even if we freeze it, the time will come in the near future; perhaps within twenty years, that we will be faced with a nation whose economic clout is double if not triple what ours is currently, or would be at that time.
As well as a nation who in all likelihood will have power projection capabilities that far exceed our own. For the first time in 100 years we will have a rival on the world stage, that should they choose to be in opposition to us, we may have no choice but to aced to their demands. The only rational choice, to protect the American public if we make the choice to allow the balance of power to be upset such as that, is a legitimate defense against the inevitable retaliatory strike that would occur, should we have to initiate a preemptive nuclear strike, against a conventional Chinese military force.
In summary the public, as well congressional and presidential policy makers, must ask the following questions?
How many lives must be sacrificed upon the alter of expediency?? One; two? Perhaps a thousand maybe? Where do you drawn the line? A million perhaps? Perhaps after a million souls are extinguished, we will then wake up and pay attention? Is that it? I personally do not really feel like being one of the lucky chosen few to be a part of this grant experiment called expediency.
Perhaps the public will buy the line, and not question, not ponder the judgment, the character of those they have chosen to lead them. We are and it will forever seem to be a society
driven by crisis. Only once the situation reaches such a critical level that it disrupts the normal day to day function of the masses will we wake up and pay attention. Only then will we apply the utmost of effort, and dedication to the immediate task at hand, whatever it shall be. Alexis de Tocqueville summed it up best in 1831 with this most relevant quote and observation......................
From Democracy In America: Volume 2, Page 277
"When a war has at length, by its long continuance, roused the whole community from there peaceful occupations and ruined their minor undertakings, the same passions that made them attach so much importance to the maintenance of peace will be turned to arms.
War, after it has destroyed all modes of speculation, becomes itself the great and sole speculation, to which all the ardent and ambitious desires that equality engenders are exclusively directed. Hence it is that the self same democratic nations that are so reluctant to engage in hostilities sometimes perform prodigious achievements when once they have taken the field."
However relevant this is, and I personally believe that he made a correct observation, he could not have foreseen a time period in which decisions that could affect literally the future of the republic if not the world, must be made in lighting speed, and with the utmost of accuracy. We no longer have the luxury of time on our side, to wait for an "event" to occur.
Therefore during these times of "perceived" peace and prosperity in which we now reside, all effort must be made to ensure that
we have as much time as we can possibly buy ourselves to make those critical decisions when they will inevitably come before us in the future.
It is the inherent responsibility of the leaders we elect to make these choices. It is frustrating to observe the fact that once again, the nation has been lulled into a malaise so deep, and so ingrained, that it will take an "event" of catastrophic proportions to wake us up to the reality that surrounds us.
It is my sincerest of hopes that we will be given the opportunity to wake up if God forbid the worse happens.
James William Stansell
©Tuesday, September 5, 2000