[F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  /

    Missile Defense

Technology has always found its greatest consumer in a nation's war and defense efforts. Since the last attempts at a "Star Wars" defense system, has technology changed considerably enough to make the latest Missile Defense initiatives more successful? Can such an application of science be successful? Is a militarized space inevitable, necessary or impossible?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

Earliest Messages Previous Messages Recent Messages Outline (101 previous messages)

evenbetta - 09:16am Jun 30, 2000 EST (#102 of 11858)

I am glad to see that a forum now exists for the discussion of this topic.

By perusing a concept that attempts to survive nuclear warfare you give nuclear warfare a ‘chance’. That ‘chance’ of survival destroys the very essence of the worldwide deterrence model. That is why the international community has overwhelmingly tipped the scales in opposition to this system. That is why SALT I and the ABM protocols exist between the two largest nuclear powers. Deployment of such a system embraces the theoretical perspective of Nuclear Utilization Theory. It may not be the intent of those who deploy-but every rational state views the system as a total embrace of a theory designed to win a nuclear war. That perspective (NUTS)(grin) implies that not only will nuclear war be fought-but it mussed be fought to survive and win. In such a pursuit, you lower conventional warfare thresholds and lower the crossover points at which conventional conflict goes into nuclear conflict. This is due to the very fact that one has added a chance to something in which no chance existed prior. You cannot posture yourself against the irrational actor- the minority of this world. Doing so only requires the majority if this world (rational actors) to balance against your own actions. You cannot thwart the irrational actor because the irrational actor has no limits or boundaries. The very name implies that the irrational actor is impossible to deter. As noted by the CIA of May 19th 00, the terminology of ‘rogue’ state has no significant in the course of debate regarding missile deference because ‘rouge’ implies that such states are irrational and every state America has labeled rouge is rational. The rational/irrational actor model is core issue regarding deterrence. As the CIA pointed out, rouge state has ‘more political significance then true value to the structure of deterrence’. In short the largest nuclear power embarking on the deployment of a system designed to survive nuclear strikes creates the impetus for every rational actor, depost to allie to do the same. All at varying levels of technological development all at varying levels of effiencey. In doing so-you destroy nuclear deterrence-the very concept that has maintained no use of nuclear weapons against states since 1945. If one recalls our operational experience in Desert Storm is that while missile defense did not work very well, deterrence did work very well. Saddam Hussein had poison gas-tipped Scuds that were available for launch at the time of the war, and he did not use them. Subsequently, after the U.S. military interrogated some defectors and some captured Iraqi leaders, it became clear why not: Saddam Hussein did not want to get blown up. Before the war, the United States, Britain, France and Israel had all stated, both publicly and privately, that if he was the first to use weapons of mass destruction, he would not be the last to use weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein and his kindred despots in other countries that we are worried about have not survived for extended periods of time by being stupid or careless. They are ruthless and cruel and sometimes reckless, but they don't remain in power, despite our repeated attempts in the case of Saddam Hussein to dislodge him, by being careless about the survival of their regime. Saddam Hussein understood very well that if he initiated the use of weapons of mass destruction, our retaliation would annihilate his regime. So the notion that missile defense is the only bulwark we have against weapons of mass destruction attacks from these regimes simply flies in the face of our actual experience, in which deterrence has worked very well and missile defense has not worked very well at all.

grodh2 - 01:44pm Jun 30, 2000 EST (#103 of 11858)

There is so little to gain and so much to lose with an ABM system. It makes no sense at all that a country with a limited nuclear arsenal would attack the US using weapons that would pinpoint where they came from. A missile launch from N Korea, Iran or Iraq would immediately draw a return missile response from the US which would result in the destruction of the attacking country. Not only is it unlikely that this system can work, but a small increase in expenditure in offense (from anyone looking to attack us) can offset major increases in defense spending. Moreover, we would always have to act as if we were not sure that every incoming missile would be stopped. Any country desperate enough to attack the U.S. by air would not be deterred by the presence of this system. This system can only increase the risk of nuclear exchange, and encourage a rogue country to attack with a bomb in a container delivered by ship or other means. Only one group will benefit by this, the military industrial complex, this is a defense contractors' dream. This should not be a political issue, the Republicans want this first and now the Democrats want it so it won't be a Republican issue. Save us from the politicians who view this from their own interests. Let's spend these tens of billions of dollars in more useful places. Let's shore up our military, protect our military secrets (if we build this system, how long will it be before the information gets to the other side), keep our invulnerable submarine deterrant strong, and use the rest of the money for the peace dividend that we should have. Let's have a full national debate before we head down this path. Howard

palousereader - 09:49am Jul 1, 2000 EST (#104 of 11858)

evenbetta, you summarize the current thinking on this issue but I'm no longer convinced that it will hold into the future. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the advances in technology, the increasing ease of global travel argue against it. What stops a minor player/irrational actor from infiltrating a neutral country (Canada, Sweden, Switzerland) and having a few operatives launch a nuclear missle from there- how could any rational nation retaliate?

A missle defense system, shared by all rational players, would quickly attack/destroy this errant missle and allow the world time to track it's real source/initiator. Suitable world punishment could then follow.

The old theories of deterrence were valid for their time. But they're dangerous now; not just to us, but to the other rational nations as well. With the stakes in global trade/power rising, there may come a day when many smaller nations feel they really have nothing left to lose, even launching from their own soil; will the rational countries really push the button if say, Taiwan, seeing a Chinese invasion force headed their way, launch on China? Would even China, knowing a Taiwanese missle might destroy one city, annihilate that entire island, just to get even/win/subdue?

A defensive system offers time and alternative retaliatory responses. It offers options that the older theories don't; I think it's time to recognize reality and the multitude of unknown scenarios that will crop up in the next 100 years and be ready for them.

More Messages Recent Messages (11754 following messages)

 Read Subscriptions  Subscribe  Search  Post Message
 Email to Sysop  Your Preferences

 [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  / Missile Defense

Home | Site Index | Site Search | Forums | Archives | Shopping

News | Business | International | National | New York Region | NYT Front Page | Obituaries | Politics | Quick News | Sports | Science | Technology/Internet | Weather
Editorial | Op-Ed

Features | Arts | Automobiles | Books | Cartoons | Crossword | Games | Job Market | Living | Magazine | Real Estate | Travel | Week in Review

Help/Feedback | Classifieds | Services | New York Today

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company