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we do know is that a missile strike could kill hundreds of thousands, even millions of American and allied citizens in a single stroke. The proba- bility of such a missile attack is unknown, but the consequences would be catastrophic. Addressing this emerging threat in a timely way must be a high priority.

Missile defence is, of course, not the complete answer to this threat. But it is an essential ingredient in any answer. The terrorist attacks of 11 September illustrate the folly of comfortable and convenient asser- tions that opponents “won’t dare” extraordinarily high-risk acts. History is littered with deterrence failures because leaderships occasionally are willing to dare. Even during the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union survived because “we lucked out”, according to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. The conditions necessary for deterrence to operate reliably are even less likely to pertain in the post-Cold War environ- ment. This is not because “rogue” leaders should be viewed as irrational, but because many of the underlying conditions necessary for the pre- dictable functioning of deterrence that were assumed in the Cold War can no longer be taken for granted.

The missile and weapons-of-mass- destruction (WMD) threat is real and growing. Deterrence is inadequate and, if missile defence is to be available in the foreseeable future, it must be a priority. Fortunately, the President, Congress and public have made it so.

Yours, Keith

Dear Keith,

The fierce partisan political war- fare that has characterised Washington policy issues since the mid-1990s has now thankfully sub- sided. We all hope that the new spirit

Winter 2001/2002


will last beyond the current crisis. But principled disagreements on key issues remain, particularly on missile defence. There is no bipartisan con- sensus.

Representative John Spratt, a key moderate Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, told us at the Carnegie Endowment that the Democrats receded on missile- defence issues after 11 September “because we did not want to be in a position of hammering at the admin- istration at this critical time”. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services Carl Levin writes: “Those of us who have argued that unilaterally deploying a missile- defence system could make the United States less, not more, secure find fresh evidence for our position in the administration’s admirable multilateral response to the recent terrorist attacks.”

There is still a deep divide over the threat, technical feasibility, schedule, cost and strategic consequences of deploying missile defence. As you know, there is considerable agree- ment on the need to press forward with the deployment of short-range or theatre missile defences. Here, there is a demonstrable threat and a greater chance of eventually getting a system with at least some capability against Scuds, missiles with a range of about 180 km, and their slightly longer-range cousins. The Patriot did not work in the Gulf War — despite initial false perceptions and more persistent false claims — but an improved version will finally be fielded in 2002 and should fare better against simple, short-range threats. The divide over long-range defence, however, continues and not just along party lines. Many officials in the departments of state and defence hold sharply different views on the programme and the utility of remain- ing in the ABM Treaty. Meanwhile, defence hawks and fiscal hawks in

the Republican-controlled House are split over costs.

One example of this divide — and of the serious technological problems plaguing the programme — is the November decision by the House Appropriations Committee to cancel the satellite system that is vital to long-range missile-defence systems. The Space-Based Infrared System- Low is years behind schedule and programme-cost estimates have grown to $23 billion from $10 billion in just the past year, the Committee said. Pentagon officials say that missile defence can’t work without the satellites. The Committee’s Republican leaders say the pro- gramme is plagued with technical and design problems and has simply grown too expensive.

This is just one of the dozens of technical problems that committed missile-defence advocates brush aside with bromides about America’s technical abilities. But it will take years before we know if any system will work. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said this July: “We don’t have a system. We don’t have an architecture. We don’t have a pro- posed architecture. All we have is a couple of handfuls of very interesting research and development and testing programmes.”

While 11 September has not appar- ently changed the views of either pro- ponents or opponents — and you and I, Keith are two excellent examples — it has changed the diplomatic, politi- cal and financial environment pro- foundly. In this New World, missile- defence programmes are likely to suffer. “Never again will supporters of national missile defence be able to claim, as President Bush did in May, that ballistic missiles in the hands of rogue regimes constitute ‘today’s most urgent threat,’” says Senator Levin. “Ballistic missiles are not the tools of terrorists.... nor are terrorists

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