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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 07:30pm Aug 19, 2001 EST (#7920 of 7932) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Flintstone Futurama by MAUREEN DOWD

"We've had the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Aquarius. Now we're in the Age of Arrested Development.

"Never mind the interplanetary cooperation presaged in "Star Trek." We're retreating from planetary cooperation. America has grown insular, isolationist, paranoid.

"Nothing leaps ahead. Power clings to the passé, retreating from the cutting edge, running safe TV shows, choosing scientific stasis. Everything — from Washington's trashed international treaties to the coal-and-drill Bush environmental policy to Hollywood's tedious remakes and endless parade of World War II and Cinderella-themed movies — looks backward, not forward.

" Our missile shield, more science fiction than science, has become a metaphor for our passive, defensive, retro crouch.

"In the name of Captain Kirk, how did this happen? How did we end up charting a course to timidly go where every man has been before?

Perhaps when an era is ending, that's how things happen. It seems to me that things are polarizing, in ways that may make some good decisions possible - if central facts, on which much depends, can be carefully, credibly established.

From my side, things seem exciting, and hopeful.

The recent trip of NYT brass to China illustrates some of the reasons for hope.

rshowalter - 07:34pm Aug 19, 2001 EST (#7921 of 7932) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Excerpts from Strategic Warmth By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

" All I could think of as I listened to Mr. Jiang was: What's going on here? First President Bush looks into the Russian president's eyes and says he saw a good soul, and now China's president says he's heard Mr. Bush's voice and he sounds like a guy he can work with. What happened to the good old days when Great Powers threatened each other with annihilation to get their way or pounded tables with a shoe?

Maybe people are getting saner, and a little wiser.

" Chinese officials will tell you privately, and urgently, that U.S. plans for a missile shield pose a huge strategic problem for Beijing. While all the focus has been on Russia, the fact is that the Russians can easily overwhelm any U.S. missile shield with their 7,000 long-range nukes. That's why in some ways missile defense is a bonanza for Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. He's going to get the U.S. to pay him to scrap the ABM treaty so the U.S. can build a system that Mr. Putin knows can't threaten Russia in any near term, and may never work.

" China, by contrast, has only 18 to 24 nuclear missiles that could hit the U.S. And although China is upgrading that force and making it more mobile, the fact is that even a small U.S. missile shield could conceivably blunt every Chinese long-range nuke and therefore eliminate China's deterrent threat. Add to that the possibility that Taiwan might be integrated into a U.S. missile shield, making it less vulnerable to Chinese attack as well, and you see why U.S. missile defense for China is not a bonanza but a potentially huge bill.

" If Beijing can't work out some understanding with the U.S. to limit any shield, China will have to spend billions of dollars to expand its nuclear arsenal — something it does not want to do right now, when its health care and education systems are both deteriorating and rural unemployment is soaring.

" The Chinese understand that there is going to be a struggle in the Bush team over how big a missile shield to deploy and whether to treat China as a potential partner, as Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested, or as America's next great enemy, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seems to believe.

Comment: It makes a deal if difference whether or not the missile shield is going to work at all. I'm saying it won't. On the basis of very solid technical information. It will be possible to show that it won't work in public. It will take some resources, and some force, but it looks like these can be brought to bear.


rshowalter - 07:35pm Aug 19, 2001 EST (#7922 of 7932) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

" By sending the most soothing signals, and praising the pro- China policies of the elder President Bush, the Chinese are trying to influence that internal debate. They want to strengthen Mr. Powell's hand and to undercut those in the Pentagon who want to make China the new American bogeyman and the focus of our missile defenses. (Incidentally, they are using this same soft-spoken approach now with Taiwan.)

" The Chinese president, though, couldn't resist sowing a little bit of doubt about the size of China's long- range nuclear arsenal. After we noted in a question that China had only about 20 long-range nukes, Mr. Jiang said: "To be frank, it seems that you know how many missiles we have better than I do. I have to say, whether the figure you give is the correct one or not, I have doubts."

" Nevertheless, when asked how China would respond if the hard- liners prevailed in Washington, Mr. Jiang would issue only the mildest of threats: "We would increase our defense capability in keeping with the development of the international situation, and we would do this for the sole purpose of self-defense."

" This Chinese approach — call it strategic warmth — has enormous support throughout Asia, and it will be interesting now to watch how it impacts the deliberations of the Bush team on missile defense and on China.

" As we got up to leave at the end of the interview in Mr. Jiang's summer palace, where foreigners are rarely invited, the Chinese leader had just one last thing to say: "Let me quote another Chinese proverb: `It takes two hands to clap.' "

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