National Missile Defense Essay Research Paper Recently

National Missile Defense Essay, Research Paper

Recently, President Clinton signed into law the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. What is a national missile defense (NMD)? A NMD is in theory a technological shield that could destroy all incoming missiles (Cirincione and Von Hippel 1). A NMD would most likely employ ground-based missiles that would intercept and destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). ICBMs are missiles that are capable of hitting targets thousands of miles away from their launch site. The National Missile Defense Act calls for developing a missile-defense system that could protect the United States from an attack by a handful of nuclear armed ballistic missiles (Ballistic Missile Defenses). It is important to realize the proposed NMD would not be designed to protect against an all out nuclear attack featuring hundreds of missiles. President Clinton is expected to make a decision on whether or not to deploy a NMD as early as June of 2000. Is a NMD a good thing for the United States? I believe the United States should not develop and deploy a NMD system.

The many proponents of a NMD such as President Clinton, Congress, and various military officials have devised a number of reasons why a NMD is needed. According to Michael Krepon, the president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, nuclear threats have become more diffuse and more troubling now that the cold war is over (31). The United States is no longer only threatened by Russia; it also has to be concerned over emerging rogue-states such as North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Is a NMD really an effective countermeasure to these new threats? Currently, there is no rogue-state long range missile threat it is unlikely that one will emerge in the next decade (Mendelsohn 30). In a statement written for the House National Security Committee, Richard Cooper, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, stated that in the next fifteen years no country other than the major declared nuclear powers [Russia and China] will develop a ballistic missile that could threaten the contiguous forty-eight states (Cooper).

Advocates also argue that a NMD would help protect the United States from an accidental launch from Russia, former republics of Russia, and China. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, Russia employs an extensive array of technical and procedural safeguards and China keeps its missiles unfueled and without warheads mated (Mendelsohn 30). Even if there were some type of accidental launch from, it would be hard to determine the number of missiles that would be launched. Any significant amount would overwhelm a NMD and it therefore be rendered useless. Also, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine have transferred to Russia all the strategic and tactical nuclear warheads they inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Ray 324). These weapons are now under the safeguards utilized by the Russian government and therefore are protected against an unauthorized launch.

Nuclear weapons have been used as a deterrent from their inception. Backers of the NMD allege that rogue states that acquire ICBMs while also possessing nuclear capabilities could use this for coercive purposes (Krepon 31). This is true; however, would this coercion really be effective against the United States? As discussed by Graig and George, there are three conditions which must be met for a successful coercive diplomacy policy: the coercing power must create in the opponent s mind a sense of urgency for compliance a belief that the coercing power is more highly motivated to achieve its stated demand and a fear of unacceptable escalation if the demand is not met (197). The first two of these conditions might easily be met by a rogue state, but a rogue state would have trouble meeting the third condition because it would only have a few ICBMs. Thus, it could not escalate the threats if the demand was not met. Without satisfying all three of the conditions, the coercive power of a rogue state would be very small.

Members of Congress as well as the President have called for swift development of a NMD. They assert that the new threats to the United States require immediate action. The truth is the U.S. has faced a threat from long-range missiles for forty years. Policies of deterrence worked then, and will almost certainly work against the new threats (What Proponents). These threats are nothing new to the United States and if the policies we have used in the past have worked, we should continue to use them.

There are many powerful arguments as to why the United States should not pursue the deployment of a NMD. Before the United States could even deploy a NMD, they would have to either renegotiate the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) or pull out of the treaty. The ABM Treaty was signed between the United States and the former Soviet Union in May of 1972. The purpose behind the ABM Treaty was to constrain the Parties from deploying territory-wide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles (ABM: Anti-Ballistic). In 1974 the ABM Treaty was amended to restrict defense deployment to a single site with no more than one hundred interceptor missiles. The type of NMD that is being proposed would violate this amendment. The writers of the ABM Treaty realized a NMD would encourage the development of increasingly powerful offensive weapons to penetrate them (Selling Russia). Michael Gordon reported Russian military warned that it would consider an American decision to withdraw from the accord as a move that would free Moscow from its arms-control obligations. Recently, Russia, China, and Belarus submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations stressing the paramount importance of full and strict compliance with the ABM Treaty by the parties. It is obvious that attempts to alter the ABM Treaty, or pull out of it completely, would severely hinder the United States image in the world and relations with other states.

The cost of developing a NMD and deploying one is overwhelming (See Appendix A). The United States has spent $99 billion overall since 1962 on ballistic missile defense programs (Cirincione and Von Hippel 2). Even after spending this exurbanite amount of money, the United States has no working NMD to show for it. President Clinton has proposed spending an additional 6.6 billion dollars on research for the NMD Program. Mendolsohn approximates it will cost an additional 28 billion dollars to deploy NMD at one site by 2006 (30). How long are we going to continue to waste taxpayers money? This money should be used for defense programs that actually work and would be utilized.

The deployment of a NMD would create an escalation of arms throughout the world and it would also hamper arms control. A NMD would undermine Arms Race Stability. Arms Race Stability is a situation where the arming decision of one side doesn t provide incentive for the other side to escalate its arms acquisitions (Hulme). Hulme also discussed that if the United States were to build a NMD, it will compromise Arms Race Stability. This would happen because Russia would either have to increase its nuclear armament or construct and deploy its own NMD. A never-ending escalation would occur because, as better defenses were built, the other side would construct even more weapons, followed by construction of even better defenses to counter the increase in arms. According to Mendelsohn, Chinese officials have already threatened this very thing. Ambassador Sha Zukang, China s top arms control official, stated the U.S. deployment of a light NMD will inevitably force China to increase the size of its long-range missile forces; China has also said that a NMD would be a deliberate effort to marginalize that country s nuclear deterrent (31). The implications deploying a NMD on the world are immeasurable. The National Academy of Sciences summarizes quite effectively the implications a NMD would have on arms control:

A possible strategic defense against a small number of nuclear warheads bought at the price of foreclosing further reductions in offensive nuclear arms thus locking into place thousands of warheads capable of being aimed at the United States would be a very poor investment. (46)

A NMD would not really bring much security to the citizens of the United States because of the increase in nuclear weapons of other countries caused by the construction of the NMD. We have worked so hard for nuclear arms reductions to throw all it all away by deploying a NMD.

The proposed NMD system is primarily concerned with the evolving threats from rogue-states such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. However, an attack by a rogue-state would probably be delivered in ways not defended by a NMD. Building and deploying workable ICBMs is very expensive and as previously stated, there is evidence to indicate these threatening states will not be able to develop these capabilities in the next fifteen years. If a state wanted to inflict severe damage to the United States, it would seem probable to use methods other than ICBMs to do so. For one thing, by launching an ICBM against the United States, a state is guaranteeing itself a complete and thorough retaliation by the United States. Also, deployment of a NMD would encourage adversaries to use other means of delivery (Fetter 9). These other means could include smuggling weapons of mass destruction into the United States by a plane or ship and utilizing them in the same fashion as did the terrorist bombers used to inflict damage against the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Congressman Chat Edwards put it quite frankly when saying building a NMD is like putting a $5,000 burglar alarm on the front door of your house, while leaving the back door of your house unlocked (Mendolsohn 30). In regards to Clinton s proposed spending of an additional 6.6 billion dollars on a NMD, it would seem more productive to spend that money to counter more probable non-ICBM threats as previously described.

Another problem with the proposed NMD is that it would not be tested in real life conditions. The American Public would be putting our faith in a system that hadn t yet proved its real life effectiveness. It is far easier for the attacker to deploy effective countermeasures against defenses than it is for the defense to respond to such countermeasures (Countermeasures). States would be able to devise ways of countering a NMD if it were truly serious about inflicting damage upon the United States. Current tests of proposed missile interceptors only have a success rate of twenty-two percent. Do we really want to depend on NMD that would only protect us twenty-two percent of the time? Spending a considerable amount of money for something that was successful only one out of every five times does not seem very rational.

Deploying a NMD would be a very costly action for the United States not only in terms of dollars, but also in terms of the impact it would have on the international community. Russia and China are not hiding their feelings regarding the United States proposed NMD; we know how they feel and how they would act if a deployment occurred. We do not need to cause these reactions because of threats that do not yet exist or will exist the near future. A NMD would provide a false sense of security for the people of the United States as it ineffective and easily circumvented.

When doing a cost-benefit analysis of NMD, it is easy to see that the costs outweigh the benefits. A NMD does have some merit, but the implications of deploying a NMD far outnumber the small benefits. The United States could be considered the lone superpower in the world, however, that distinction should not allow the United States to ignore the weight of the world s opinion. Deployment of a NMD would be devastating to international relations and the ramifications of such actions are endless. A NMD should not be employed by the United States now or anytime in the near future.

Works Cited

ABM: Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. n. pag. Online. Internet. 17 Nov. 1999. Available WWW:

Ballistic Missile Defenses. Union of Concerned Scientists. n. pag. Online. Internet. 2 Nov. 1999. Available WWW:

Cirincione, Joseph and Von Hippel, Frank. Introduction. The Last Fifteen Minutes: Ballistic Missile Defense in Perspective. N.p.: Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, 1999. 1-5.

Cooper, Richard N. Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years. The Last Fifteen Minutes: Ballistic Missile Defense in Perspective. Ed. Joseph Cirincione and Frank Von Hippel. N.p.: Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, 1999. Appendix B.

Countermeasures: The Achilles Heel of Missile Defense. Union of Concerned Scientists. n. pag. Online. Internet. 2 Nov. 1999. Available WWW:

Craig, Gordon A. and George, Alexander L. Force and Statecraft. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Fetter, Steven. Overview: Desirability and Feasibility of Ballistic Missile Defenses. The Last Fifteen Minutes: Ballistic Missile Defense in Perspective. Ed. Joseph Cirincione and Frank Von Hippel. N.p.: Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, 1999. 6-15.

Gordon, Michael R. Russians Firmly Reject U.S. Plan to Reopen ABM Treaty. New York Times. 21 Oct. 1999: A3.

Hulme, Dr. Derrick. Arms Control. World Problems and Conflict. Alma College, Alma, MI. 17 Nov. 1999.

Krepon, Michael. Missile Defense: Not Such a Bad Idea. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. May-June. 1999: 31-33.

Mendelsohn, Jack. Missile Defense: And It Still Won t Work. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. May-June. 1999: 29-31.

National Academy of Sciences. The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997.

Ray, James Lee. Global Politics. 7th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Selling Russia on Missile Defense. New York Times. 21 Oct. 1999: A24.

What Proponents of Missile Defense Argue and Rebuttals. Council for a Livable World. n. pag. Online. Internet. 2 Nov. 1999. Available WWW: http://www.clw/org/ef/bmdrebuts.html.


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