Lisa M. Chmiola

John Harp Michelle Norton

Jim Parsons

Friend or foe?

The Senate Wednesday voted down a measure that would require deployment of a national missile defense system "as soon as technologically feasible." This proposal was made by Republicans amid warnings that unrest in Russia and North Korea is causing potential danger for the United States.

The 59-41 Senate vote, one short of the necessary 60, delayed implementation of a national defense system designed to protect America against intercontinental nuclear missiles. It's a smaller version of President Reagan's 1983 "Star Wars" proposal, which would have employed space-based protection devices.

The Senate's vote once again proves that the American people don't want to spend money on something they're not sure of. Even though legislators warned that delaying the bill compromises our national security, we wonder whether the general public actually believes that.

After all, we haven't been the target of any intercontinental missile warfare. With the fall of the Soviet Union, on which our sense of competition thrived for so many years, what do we have to worry about anyway?

Well, plenty. We all know that the former U.S.S.R. is now home to a bunch of penniless, desperate people with nuclear arms to spare. And now we have China (which, despite its "marvelous advances in human rights," we should still keep a close eye on), North Korea, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan and lord knows how many other countries that are developing (or may already have) nuclear weapons and the impetus to use them.

But that's not all. Unlike the Cold War years, we can no longer afford to think that our enemies are clearly defined. Terrorism is possibly more of a threat than missiles cruising through the skies. After all, a well-placed car bomb could do much more damage both physically and mentally.

The Senate's voting down the latest proposal Wednesday was the right thing to do. It is ludicrous to expect the American people to pay for a defense system that isn't proven to work, particularly when our foes are less and less defined every day.

What is clear is that we cannot afford not to adopt some policy to protect ourselves. But against what? Against whom? And from where? Those questions must be answered before we can spend money to protect ourselves.

And, in this day and time, perhaps knowing our enemies is the biggest challenge of all.


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