Star Wars And National Missile Defense: Essay, Research Paper
Star Wars and National Missile Defense:
Unnecessary Yesterday, Unnecessary Today
Ever since nuclear weapons of mass destruction have existed, people have been attempting to create ways to prevent a war that would bring about a worldwide Arma-geddon. Many of today?s top military and government officials have been studying ways in which the United States can protect itself from a nuclear missile attack. What they have come up with is the National Missile Defense program, or NMD. The NMD would consist of a network of satellites, early-warning devices, and missiles pro-grammed to spot an incoming nuclear missile. When a nuclear missile is detected, the NMD would automatically launch the computer-guided interceptor missiles to seek out and destroy the incoming nuclear missile. This program, however, should not be im-plemented or researched any further. There are a few factors to support this claim. First, the NMD program is very costly. According to the website of the Federation of American Scientists, the projected total costs by the year 2005 will be close to $14 bil-lion dollars, obviously a large amount of money that could be well spent elsewhere. Second, the NMD program is ineffective. There are many ways for a rouge state or a terrorist group with nuclear capabilities to get around the NMD. Third, an American development of a NMD program would be a violation one of the most important inter-national nuclear weapons agreements of the nuclear age: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM).
During the height of the cold war, the threat of a nuclear attack was real. Many citizens were afraid that an enemy state, most likely the Soviet Union, would launch nuclear missiles at the US. This fear was almost realized during the Cuban Missile cri-sis in 1962. Fortunately, that crisis passed without any nuclear missiles launched. The fear of an attack, however, stayed with many people. It became the goal of the United States to stockpile weapons, to use in the event of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Un-ion or other nuclear super-power. A few years later, during the Nixon Presidency in 1968, the United States, USSR, and a number of other states signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The NPT was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology from the super-power states to the still-developing states. (Winkler 1999, 182)
In 1972, four years after NPT was signed and ten years after the Cuban missile crisis, the United States, in conjunction with the USSR, signed the ABM Treaty. The ABM treaty was designed to regulate the number of anti-ballistic missile systems, or defense shields, of both the United States and the Soviet Union to two, and later agree-ments brought that number down to one. (Winkler 1999, 187) It did nothing, however, to regulate the number of missiles a state could possess.
During all this time, however, US-Soviet relations remained tense. The Ameri-can government taught the American people to live in fear of a possible pre-emptive nuclear strike by the Soviets. According to author Allan Winkler, this is when then-President Ronald Reagan began to design his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) pro-gram, or Star Wars, as many people referred to it as. (204) There were a number of early proposals for how the Star Wars program would work. A few of them include:
1. Using chemical lasers that would emit ?infrared radiation that could then be amplified and aimed at enemy targets.? (Winkler 1999, 205)
2. The physicist Edward Teller, one of the creators of the hydrogen bomb, proposed a program titled ?Excalibur,? which would be an X-ray laser powered by a nuclear bomb. (Winkler 1999, 204, 205)
3. Particle beams consisting of ?streams of atomic or subatomic particles,? which would be used to ?knock out incoming targets.? (Winkler 1999, 205)
4. Scientist Gerald Yonas? proposed program entitled ?Jedi Concept,? which would consist of ?plasma globs, made up of energized nuclei and electrons.? These would be fired into space at the speed of light towards enemy missiles. (Winkler 1999, 205)
While all of these programs sound high-tech and interesting, this is exactly the problem that was faced. The technology to create such programs had not been perfected or in some cases, such as Yonas? and Teller?s proposals, had not even been developed. The main problem with all of these programs, however, is that not a single one would be 100 percent successful. Supporters argued that this was better than nothing, but many, in-cluding world-renowned scientist Carl Sagan, was bitterly opposed to this. He likened the SDI program to that of a human contraceptive device. He wrote:
?A contraceptive shield that deters 90 percent of 200
million sperm cells is generally considered worthless ?
20 million sperm cells penetrating the shield are more
than enough. Such a shield is not better than nothing; it
is worse than nothing, because it might well engender
a false sense of security, bringing on the very event it
was designed to prevent. The same is true for the leaky
shield of Star Wars.? (Winkler 1999, 205-206)
Even the scientist Edward Teller makes a similar statement in his book, ?Better a Shield than a Sword: Perspectives on Defense and Technology.? He states:
?Any person with a humane point of view should be
opposed to aggression, but why be opposed to defense?
The most popular argument is that defense against
nuclear missiles is useless unless it is 100 percent
effective?the damage would be enormous if only a few
of the rockets penetrated the defense. The arguments
is correct, but it is an argument against defense, not
against war.? (Teller 1987, 8)
Needless to say, President Reagan?s plan never quite got the support it needed to get past the research and development phases. There were far more critics and oppo-nents of his plan than there were supporters. Some of the largest opponents of this pro-gram were, obviously, the Soviets. According to Teller, Soviet General Secretary An-dropov ?criticized the Strategic Defense Initiative as an effort to ?militarize space.?? (Teller 1987, 7) By the end of Reagan?s presidency, support and enthusiasm for SDI had almost completely faded away, and Americans were ?ambivalent about Reagan?s vision, and political support began to decline.? (Winker 1999, 207) It was also much later discovered that Edward Teller had misled President Reagan and the rest of the country into believing his idea, that an X-ray laser could be an anti-missile weapon, was even possible. (Winkler 1999, 207) When President George H. W. Bush took office in 1989, SDI was all but just a memory. The Americans and the Soviets were close to striking a deal on nuclear missile reduction, and President Bush began scaling down funding for SDI research. Additionally, the Cold War was coming to an end, and Americans and Soviets no longer felt as threatened by each other?s military capabilities as they had before.
However, support for a new type of defense program returned with the Clinton administration. There was a new fear of possible nuclear attacks from rouge states or terrorist groups. In 1999, Congress and the President passed and signed the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. Unlike Reagan?s futuristic plan to have lasers or x-ray?s intercepting incoming weapons, Clinton?s National Missile Defense program (NMD) would consist of a number of satellites, high-tech computer systems, and a complex se-ries of missile launching sites in Hawai?i, Alaska, and North Dakota. (Hitchens and Samuels, 2000) When George W. Bush took office after President Clinton completed his second term, he decided to push forward with the NMD program. This has many NATO and other European states worried. This is because both Bush appointees De-fense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell ?have suggested that the 1972 ABM treaty, which governs defenses against attacking missiles, be scrapped.? (Knickerbocker 2001) According to Knockerbocker, in Rumsfeld?s Senate confirmation hearings, the Secretary referred to the ABM Treaty as ?ancient history.? So why is this a problem for other NATO members? According to Knockerbocker:
?European countries in the 19-member NATO worry
that this could provoke another arms race in a post-
cold-war era that has become more complex. There?s
also concern that a unilateral move by the US to
construct a national missile defense could ?decouple?
the US from its European allies, weakening a body
that has helped protect much of the world for half a
century.? (Knickerbocker 2001)
The European NATO members fear that a US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty could cause another weapons build-up race between the United States and another nuclear-capable state such as Russia, Iran, or North Korea. Why would a development of a Na-tional Missile Defense system cause a second major arms race? It is because ?defense becomes offense when your adversary can?t be sure of his ability to retaliate against a nuclear first strike. Stability depends on both sides being vulnerable?? (Schorr 2001)
There are a number of reasons why the National Missile Defense program should be abandoned. First, the program is much too costly. Since 1962, as of 1999, the United States has spent over $99 billion dollars on ballistic missile defense systems. (Cirincione and Von Hippel 1999, 2) After signing the NMD act of 1999, President Clinton ordered another $6.6 billion dollars to be set aside for NMD program research. According to Jack Mendelsohn, another $28 billion of the taxpayers? money will need to be spent by the year 2006 to have one NMD site set up and operational. (Mendel-sohn 1999) This totals almost $134 billion dollars in missile defense alone.
The second fault of the NMD system is its ineffectiveness. Proponents of an NMD system argue that a shield is necessary to protect the United States from possible missile attacks from rouge states or terrorist groups. The problem with this theory is that its is quite expensive to acquire, maintain, and fire Inter-continental Ballistic Mis-siles, or ICBMs, which are necessary to deliver the nuclear warheads to their targets. Additionally, if a terrorist group was adamant about causing destruction in the United States, it could easily detonate a nuclear warhead from a stationary point in a crowded area, similar to the bombing attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. As Congressman Chat Edwards stated, ?build-ing an NMD is like putting a $5000 burglar alarm on the front door of your house, while leaving the backdoor unlocked.? (Mendelsohn 1999, 30) The United States has three times tested their Missile Defense system, and twice out of those three times, the mis-siles launched have failed to hit their targeted incoming missiles. With only a 33 per-cent success rate, it is obvious that the US is nowhere near ready to implement a NMD program on any large-scale.
The third fault of the NMD program is that it is in violation the ABM treaty. First, one must look at the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, or ABM treaty and see just what exactly it protects, or prevents. As was stated earlier, the ABM treaty was de-signed to limit the number of missile-defense systems that the United States and the USSR could develop to one. The NMD program, however, consists of constructing a number of launching sites for these anti-missile missiles. Having more than one site would obviously be in violation of ABM. Oddly enough, when the ABM treaty was ne-gotiated, the Soviets decided to place their anti-missile defense system outside of Mos-cow, protecting the people living there and the seat of the Soviet government. The US, on the other hand, decided to place their defense missiles in North Dakota Why in North Dakota, one may ask? The missiles there are protecting the rest of their nuclear arsenal. (Teller 1987, 20) Why does the USA not just dissolve or pull out of its association with the ABM treaty? This is because the ABM is an important settlement, a ?cornerstone of strategic stability,? as South Korean President Kim Dae Jung described it. (Knicker-bocker 2001) ABM kept both the United States and the Soviets from firing on each other, because of the knowledge that this would bring on what Robert McNamara coined ?mutually assured destruction,? or MAD. (Teller 1987, 20) A major concern that all people should have if the United States reneges on its pledge to the ABM, is the possible breakdown of all Russo-American nuclear policies. According to an editorial by William D. Hartung in the March 12, 2001 edition of The Nation,
?Russian President Vladimir Putin has flatly stated
that a US breakout from the treaty would call the
entire network of US-Russian arms agreements into
question.? (Vol. 272 No.10, 4)
A final reason why NMD should be scrapped is the fact that other states may be compelled to stockpile nuclear weapons in response to the United States being more impervious to an enemy attack. The equation and logic of this is simple. The more mis-siles it takes to penetrate a defense shield, the more the enemy is going to manufacture. This would be a detriment to Arms Race Stability, which is ?the situation where the arming decisions of one side does not provide incentive for the other side to escalate its arms acquisitions.? (Hulme 1999) As an example of this statement, look at Russia. If the United States were to successfully develop a NMD program, Russia will either have to build up its offensive nuclear missiles even more, or develop a missile shield similar to the NMD. This would be a never-ending cycle. As better missiles are built, better shields will be built, causing better missiles to be built, and so on.
The truth is that the ABM treaty must remain in place. What then, is the United States to do for its self-defense? Instead of working towards a method that uses danger-ous and possible ineffective weapons against dangerous, powerful, destructive nuclear missiles, both the Russians and the Americans must work towards a different approach to maintaining world peace. The obvious solution to this would be to continue to work towards the Bush and Clinton Administrations? START I, START II, and START III policies. The START treaties, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, is, obviously, an agreement between the Russians and the United States to limit the number of offensive nuclear weapons each state could possess. It is a continuation of the SALT, or Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, that were negotiated during the Nixon and Ford Presidencies.
Country Before START START I
(7/31/1991) START IIa
(1/03/1993) START IIb
(2003) START III
Russia 10,780 10,682 3,800-4,250 3,100 2,000-2,500
U.S.A. 12,720 11,080 3,800-4,250 3,500 2,000-2,500
Totals: 23,500 21,762 7,600-8,500 6,600 4,000-5,000
Instead of just limiting the number of nuclear weapons that each state would be allowed to possess, START actually worked towards reducing the number of missiles. That is, each state would begin a process of disassembling and getting rid of their current stock-pile of nuclear weapons (see table 1). (Winkler 1999, 185)
Source: Nolan 1999, 33
The United States and the Russians both, however, must be certain that in no point dur-ing the dismantling of their weapons that they violate the NPT, Nuclear Nonprolifera-tion Treaty. This could occur if one of the non-nuclear states, forbidden by NPT from acquiring nuclear capabilities, somehow got hold of the dismantled pieces of the US or Russian missiles. Violations of this treaty, however, are not uncommon, and sometimes go unpunished. This is because, according to Glenn Chafetz, the states of the nuclear nonproliferation regime tend to ignore violations committed by ?liberal democratic states,? who together make up the ?liberal security community,? or LSC, and punish those who are not associated with the LSC. (Chafetz 1995, 745) For example, according to Chafetz:
??The LSC has consistently ignored evidence of
Israeli violations while it imposes an economic
boycott, threatened and used military force, and began
the most obtrusive weapons inspections in history in
response to Iraq?s breach of nonproliferation obligations.? (Chafetz 1999, 745)
This does not discredit the NPT, it just shows that better control and leadership should take control over those who govern its authority.
A second option for an alternative method of self-defense is to continue its at-tempt to envelop the world within the US sphere of influence. As President Clinton stated in 1993:
?In a new era of peril and opportunity, our overriding
purpose must be to expand and strengthen the world?s
community of market-based democracies. During the
Cold War, we sought to contain a threat to survival of
free institutions. Now we seek to enlarge the circle of
nations that live under those free institutions, for our
dream is of a day when the opinions and energies of
every person in the world will be given full
expression in a world of thriving democracies that
cooperate within each other and live in peace.?
(Kissinger 1994, 805)
It is true that this is quite an idealistic way of thinking. However, it is also very true. If a majority of the world were to be allied with each other, then no non-aligned state would dare to attack one of these democracies. This theory does, however, have its fallacies, according to Henry Kissinger. If there is ?an absence of both an overriding ideological or strategic threat,? then individual states are allowed to pursue foreign policy ?based increasingly on their own immediate national interest.? (Kissinger 1994, 805) If all of these democratic states work towards foreign policy that is only in their own self-interest, then once again the world could reach a type of stand off similar to that of the Cold War. While it might not necessarily be a nuclear standoff, or even military related, it could cause tensions to harden once again. However, as long as every one of these democracies, who are only working in for their own national interest, realize that build-ing a nuclear weapon is not in anybody?s interest, the world can breathe easy because nobody will want to acquire nuclear weapons. Why is it not in a state?s self interest to build a nuclear device? Won?t that give it power over others? The truth is, as we have already seen, if one state has nuclear capabilities, then all the other states will work to-wards this as well, once again leaving the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction as the basis of feeling safe. If nobody has nuclear capabilities, however, then each state has absolutely nothing to worry about. One free democratic state would not dare to invade another. Not only is this morally incorrect, but it also is a violation of the United Na-tions Charter. Article 2, paragraph 3 of the charter states:
?All members shall settle their international disputes
by peaceful means in such a manner that international
peace and security, and justice, are not violated.?
(UN Charter, Article 2.3)
And paragraph 4 states:
?All members shall refrain in their international
relations from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of any
state, or in any manner inconsistent with the
Purposes of the United Nations.? (UN Charter, Article 2.4)
Although democratizing the entire globe may be a long way off, it is most certainly an effective way of maintaining world peace and security.
Supporters of a National Missile Defense system have a few arguments that they use to back the establishment of the NMD program. First, they argue, we need the NMD program not to protect ourselves from the nuclear arsenal of Russia or China, but rather from one of the smaller possible nuclear-capable rouge states and from terrorist groups. They argue that rouge states that acquire ICBMs and nuclear warheads could use their technology for ?coercive purposes? against the United States. (Krepon 1999, 31) Realis-tically, could these coercion techniques really be effective against the US? Not likely, because a rouge state, even a larger one such as Iraq or Iran, could not ever conceivably have enough fire-power to match that of the US, Great Britain, Russia, or other nuclear superpower. It is conceivable, however, for a terrorist group to obtain the tools neces-sary to build and fire a nuclear missile. According to author Cindy Combs:
?The technology and the materials are available to
terrorists today. While the devices may be difficult
to manufacture, it is not impossible to do so, and
they could be stolen, purchased, or supplied by a
supporting state.? (Combs 2000, 124)
However, the likelihood of this occurring is undoubtedly small. As was stated before, it would be much easier for a terrorist group to deliver a nuclear warhead via a vehicle such as a car, truck, or van, or hide it on an airplane, train, or bus.
If the US does not need this complex NMD program, then are there any alterna-tives to ensuring our national security? Most definitely, there are. For instance the US can continue to attempt a dialogue with those states that are considered to be ?dangers? to national security. The US could also work to maintain it?s current defense shield. Or, we could do nothing at all. However, this is probably not the best option for maintaining world peace and security.
In conclusion, it is evident that the United States has no use for a National Mis-sile Defense system. As study has shown, it will benefit nobody to develop and build one, and it will only hinder world peace and stability in the long run. Jacques Chirac stated in 1999:
“If you look at world history, ever since men began
waging war, you will see that there’s a permanent
race between sword and shield. The sword always
wins. The more improvements that are made to the
shield, the more improvements are made to the sword.
We think that with these [anti-missile] systems, we
are just going to spur swordmakers to intensify their
efforts.” (Council for A Livable World, web site )
If even powerful world-leaders fear that the establishment of NMD would only increase the power of attack weapons, Then there must be some validity to the idea. To ensure world peace and stability, NMD program must therefore cease.
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