Clinton should scrap failed Ballistic Missile Defense program
"We failed to achieve an intercept," The Associated Press reported Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman as saying after a missile intercept test failed yet again on Saturday. In the Ballistic Missile Defense program, introduced by President Reagan in 1983 as the Strategic Defense Initiative program, the U.S. State Department certainly does have a failure. This program is not merely an excessive expense for the federal government, but it doesn't even work and isn't needed anyway.
SDI was envisioned as a space-based nuclear defense system, but it was decried by so many critics as impractical and unworkable that it was, apparently, not quite scrapped, but put way away on the back burner. The press mocked the program, calling it "Star Wars," and its opponents pointed out that it was not scientifically feasible and a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
After the end of the Cold War, critics further argued that such a massive system was rendered pointless, and the SDI program was scaled back to a land-based missile intercept defense system and renamed the Ballistic Missile Defense program in 1993. A test of this program is what failed last Saturday.
Actually, tests of this program have failed at least three times in the past, and the only successful test of a ground-based missile system occurred in 1984 after the odds of success had been augmented for propaganda purposes.
Besides failing to do its job, BMD's job may not be that critical. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is a ranking member of the foreign relations committee, asserts that the necessity of the missile defense program has not been clearly established. Neither does he believe the government's claim that North Korea and Iran are sufficiently threatening to defense when the United States has so many more missiles than either of them. He also argues that the United States may be more vulnerable to chemical or biological terrorist accounts.
"The threat is not at all clear to me - number one. And the response to the threat seems to me to be adequate where we are now," Biden said in an interview with CBS.
Fifty Nobel laureates said in a statement, "The system would offer little protection and would do grave harm to this naion's core security systems."§
At a cost of $32 to $60 billion, a program that is a proven failure, further tarnishes our already poor reputation in the world community and is of little strategic imperative should be scrapped. Despite these shortcomings, President Clinton may still approve the BMD program.
National Security Advisor Sandy Berger has said that this failure does not necessarily mean that President Clinton would abandon the program.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sunday, "There are four criteria that the president is going to be looking at: the threat, the technology, the cost and what it does to overall American security," the AP reported.
Though part of the urgency is a law that mandates the United States erect a missile defense system of this sort as soon as technologically feasible, one suspects that President Clinton, after realizing that his legacy seems destined to be the Monica Lewinsky affair and not peace in the Middle East, went shopping around for a last minute legacy and came up with BMD.
What's worse is both presidential candidates support the program, which still violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The difference is that Gore would like to see the treaty amended to allow for BMD; Bush not only could not care less about the treaty, but supports a more expansive missile defense program. Here is a yet another mark on the scorecard for voter apathy.
The Ballistic Missile Defense program makes as little since now as its grandparent Strategic Defense Initiative program did in 1983. Albright has said that if President Clinton postpones the decision it would be "irresponsible." What would be irresponsible is if Clinton approved this missile interceptor program.