So, it's possible to hit a bullet with a bullet after all.
Late last Saturday night, the Pentagon launched a missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California equipped with a mock warhead and a decoy to evade detection in space. Minutes later the missile was targeted and destroyed 144 miles above the earth by a "hit-to-kill" interceptor fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. This wasn't the first or the last test of missile defense technology. But it reaffirmed what American scientists proved over 40 years ago: We can shoot down ballistic missiles aimed at the United States.
Knowing this, what are we to make of congressional liberals who continue to oppose missile defense? Surely they agree America is worth defending, don't they?
Liberals offer three basic arguments against building a missile defense system. The first is silly; the second dishonest; the third anachronistic. All three aim to disarm America.
First, liberals say missile defense won't work. Saturday's success suggests otherwise. True, several recent tests have failed. But those failures represented nothing but a lack of quality control within the Clinton Pentagon. In one case, the first stage of an interceptor rocket didn't separate from the second stage as planned — a problem rocket scientists solved in the 1950s.
At any rate, correcting problems and improving technology is precisely why we test things. To say something cannot be done because a couple of tests failed is, well, silly. Imagine telling the Wright brothers after their first couple of crashes that it is impossible for man to fly.
And it should not be overlooked that this form of missile defense — hitting an enemy warhead with a hit-to-kill interceptor — is far more challenging technologically than the system of space-based lasers and interceptors the U.S. has spent billions of dollars researching.
Second, liberal critics say we can't afford missile defense, that social spending is a higher priority. Here liberals are particularly disingenuous. The Bush Administration's proposed missile defense budget may amount to a modest 2% to 3% of the total annual defense budget, or roughly $8 billion. Americans spend more than that on pornography and prostitution in any given year. Further, even the most strident opponents of missile defense vote consistently to support missile defense research to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, as they don't want to appear soft on national security.
Third, liberals think missile defense unnecessary because of two outdated relics of the Cold War: The theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) — which suggested the most stable relations among nuclear countries happens when each maintains a powerful offensive strike force, but no defense capability, ensuring that any nation that launches a nuclear first strike must absorb a similar strike in return, thereby deterring all nations from using nuclear weapons — and the 1972 ABM Treaty that forbade the construction of national missile defenses.
With the end of the Cold War, however, the public now knows from Soviet scholar William T. Lee that the Soviets deployed a national missile defense, with some 9,000 anti-missile interceptors placed around Moscow, in clear violation of the ABM Treaty, and with little concern for the theoretical posturing required by MAD. While American liberals patted themselves on the back for obstructing American missile defense development, the Soviets gained a strategic advantage over the U.S. Today, the Soviet-era anti-missile system protects 70 percent of Russia's population, while Americans remain defenseless.
More alarming, liberals downplay nuclear proliferation among Third World countries. The Communist Chinese possess some 30 ICBMs capable of hitting the United States. Why should we trust China, North Korea, Iran, or Iraq — brutal dictatorships that place a low premium on human life — to refrain from using their nuclear arsenals against America? And if these countries have no plan to use them, why are they pouring what little resources they have into nuclear missile technology?
Unlike liberals in Congress, most Americans think it important to defend ourselves against missile attacks as best we can. But the greatest obstacle we face is ignorance: Recent surveys show that more than half of Americans believe we already possess a national missile defense. The reality is that we cannot stop one missile from destroying a U.S. city today. Americans need to understand our current vulnerability, and support the effort to protect our citizens.
Note: The Bush Administration gave its six month notice of withdraw from the ABM Treaty in December of 2001.