Al Gore's missile-defense dodge

By David Horowitz

By Salon Staff

Published June 29, 2000 10:41PM (EDT)

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David Horowitz's rant on the Democrats' inability to see sense on missile defense is a load of jingoistic claptrap. Just who does the U.S. need defending from?

North Korea is never going to bomb the U.S. Neither is Libya, Iran or Iraq. Why? Because while their leaders may be despots, tyrants even, they ain't stupid. They fire a missile at the U.S. and they get squished like bugs. Full stop. From the viewpoint of an impartial observer, Bush's support for Son of Star Wars, a missile defense system that has failed every test to which it has been put, seems more a pragmatic nod to the arms lobby than a genuine fear for a country in peril. Star Wars made a ton of government bucks for its developers (and my memory may be faulty here, but didn't SDI eventually die more because of its failure to work than because of anything Clinton and Gore might have done?) and Son of Star Wars looks set to do the same if only a friendly soul in government would give it the go-ahead. That's the real reason it's an issue.

The Cold War is over, folks. Get over it and stop pushing for a new one, which will do nothing more than fatten the pockets of arms manufacturers. Getting Russia angry at this stage of the game is a risky business: Vladimir Putin's motivations at this point are unclear enough for anyone to say with any authority how he'd react to what could reasonably be seen as a gesture of aggression from a longtime enemy and only newly found friend. But if you're looking for a new raison d'jtre for arms manufacturers, pissing him off by pushing a patently unnecessary missile defense system would probably be a good start.

-- Kim Covert

To comment on one specific inaccuracy in David Horowitz's column:

The Russian missile defense of Moscow is NOT in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. That treaty allows each nation to deploy a missile defense for one target only -- no more. The Soviet Union chose to defend Moscow. The United States chose to defend some of its missile silos, and actually had an operational missile defense of them for some time. However, the system was decommissioned after it was felt to be no longer effective against newer warheads.

-- Matthew Brown

David Horowitz neatly avoids the two most important issues in the missile defense debate.

First, the current systems are unable to reliably distinguish between real missiles and decoys, making them virtually useless in a real situation. Many experts on the matter are skeptical as to whether a truly workable system will ever be technically achievable. Second, an enemy seeking to destroy U.S. cities is far more likely to sneak in a weapon for detonation on the ground rather than ensure massive retaliation by launching an easily detectable ballistic missile.

Continuing the missile defense program will result in little security gains for U.S. citizens and a million-dollar boondoggle for Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors.

-- Josh Ellison

Salon Staff

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