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  xThursday, December 19, 2002

yet more antimissile criticism


The WaPo's editorial board--which is fairly hawkish on Iraq, let's not forget--also criticizes Bush's flawed and hasty decision to begin deployment of a vaporware antimissle defense system:
The Bush administration's decision to deploy a rudimentary missile defense system in Alaska and California by the end of 2004 begs the question of what threat justifies such an accelerated timetable. The missile system, after all, is far from proven; some of its key elements have not yet been built, much less tested. So if it is to be rushed into the field, at considerable cost and risk of failure, it ought to be because a potential adversary has appeared capable of attacking the United States with an intercontinental missile. Yet there appears to be no such enemy. America is at peace with Russia and China, nations that could easily overwhelm a missile defense system anyway. North Korea, the most likely suspect, does not yet have a missile capable of hitting the continental United States. The CIA believes its Taepodong-1 model, which has been tested only once, at best could reach the outskirts of Alaska -- and only then if it were not carrying a nuclear warhead.

North Korea, Iran or other hostile states might someday deploy missiles that threaten the United States, and for that reason a missile defense program is worth pursuing. Because several countries already possess intermediate-range missiles, and the defensive systems against them are closer to proving their worth, plans to deploy those systems on Navy ships or near U.S. bases abroad make some sense. But the Bush administration's hasty drive to build a ground-based defense against long-range missiles seems to have more to do with the U.S. political calendar than with any plausible defense scenario. For the administration's missile defense hawks, the program has become an ideology; they appear determined to pour enough concrete and create enough on-the-ground hardware by the next presidential election to make it irreversible. Some still remember, with great bitterness, the Clinton administration's decision to pull the plug on many of the pre-1992 missile defense projects; they are intent on preventing a repeat of that setback.


(continued in the next post)





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