Wednesday, August 1, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 158


U.S. needs missile defense, at any cost

Matthew E. Caster

Calm has finally been restored to the city of Genoa, Italy, but the debate is just beginning to heat up on the topic of missile defense. Recently, China and Russia voiced unified opposition to President Bush's plan for missile defense, and several European nations have also voiced concerns.

Of course, Bush has already stated he's going to implement missile defense, whether other nations of the world approve or not. But perhaps his most vocal opposition does not
come from abroad, but rather from his own people.

I won't sugar-coat this for you: The United States needs missile defense.

Three justifications jump immediately to mind: Iran, Iraq and North Korea. These and other "rogue" states pose a serious threat to national security. These nations have a
pronounced vendetta upon the United States and are not afraid to lose a few million of their own people to undermine our prestige.

Notice I did not mention that this defense system would protect us from the likes of the Russians or Chinese. A system capable of engaging missiles fired from those nations would
have to be far more complex, and would probably never be used. For nations like these, the old rule of nuclear deterrence applies: While you are destroying us, we will destroy you.

But rogue states don't care about deterrence; they only care about the publicity they'd receive from a surprise attack. Experts believe North Korea already has technology for a
missile attack on Hawaii or Alaska, and it will only be a few more years until Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas will join that list.

But all of the fears of this system are unjustified.

To begin with, how much is it worth to save human lives from surprise attack? If a city such as Los Angeles goes up in a flash of nuclear fire, will the millions reduced to radioactive
ash still feel the cost was too great?

The Bush proposal isn't even that expensive -- programs like Social Security and Medicare will cost billions more each year than the missile defense system will cost in its lifetime.

People also question the system's effectiveness. Granted, against some mass launching of 20 or more missiles, the Bush system would prove to be only partially effective. But any
rogue nation stupid enough to launch 20 missiles at the United States would itself be reduced to a radioactive glaze and wiped off the face of the planet.

What about the poor, pitiful Russians and Europeans, terrified that this system would only incite another arms race? In this, I must echo Bush's sentiment: Who cares?

Honestly, neither Russia nor the United States is really stupid enough to fire off a nuclear missile. Either nation would be committing suicide by doing so. Both sides learned well the
lessons of the Cold War: The key to relative world stability in the last 50 years has been the possession, not the use, of weapons of mass destruction.

Quite simply, every fallacious critique of this plan doesn't consider American national security. We need this system for protection from the rogue states, at any cost. Our cities and
our people are worth it.

Caster, a junior chemical engineering
major, can be reached at

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