Thursday, November 26, 2020

Dont go ballistic

Imagine some fine day, a wicked rogue state such as North Korea or Iraq becomes fed up with the United States, and, in a suicidal fit of rage, decides to launch ballistic missiles at the country. The missiles carry either chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. As the missiles arc through outer space, we can thank the foresight of U.S. defense planners who specially designed missiles of our own that speedily slam into the incoming weapons, harmlessly detonating the enemy delivery vehicles in the upper atmosphere. This is the basic concept of the National Missile Defense Program’s initiatives currently slated for development by the U.S. military.

It sounds like quite an idea. The issue is no longer discussed in political forums. As an international relations student, however, I deeply oppose developing such a system.

Currently, the loudest criticism of a missile defense program is that it simply wouldn’t work. While I don’t doubt this is true at present, I think that after investing billions of dollars and several years in such a program, the technological hurdles could be leaped over . Defense contractors can turn out some very fancy gizmos when the government is willing to fork out enough cash. My objection, however, is that a missle program is both unneeded and dangerous.

The idea of the ‘rogue state’ -one of the more hackneyed political clichés of U.S. foreign policy - fails to impress me as an actual threat. Yes, there are people around who aren’t thrilled with the United States. And yes, North Korea, Iraq and others have been busy developing missiles capable of hitting North America as well as weapons of mass destruction. But the fear that these countries’ leaders - as deranged as they may seem - would ever attack the United States, ensuring their own demise in the ensuing counterattack, is not realistic. Saddam Hussein may not like you, me or Bill Clinton, but he isn’t stupid.

Moreover, deploying a missile defense system would upset everybody, including the Russians and the Chinese. Not only would a missile defense program contravene 1972’s Antiballistic Missile Treaty, but it would send a clear message to other nations that the United States is only out to protect itself. Additionally, it would suggest that America is trying to gain a global defensive edge, leading other countries to reevaluate their arms policies and possibly to rearm.

Nix the missile defense program. The billions saved could be more wisely spent. Perhaps we could improve our counter-terrorism strategies, or give technical assistance to the Russian military? Or why not something really useful, like subsidizing my college tuition?

Drew Roach is a State News undergraduate columnist whose column appears every other Friday. He can be reached at roachand@msu.edu.

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