Stop Bush’s New Star Wars

To the Editors:

The time is now, cries President George W. Bush, for us to embrace a nuclear missile shield and forsake the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In the wake of Sept. 11, a truly harrowing event demonstrating the threat of terrorists and the rogue states that harbor them, it appears that it is indeed time for nuclear defense. Yet this package Mr. Bush proposes will do more harm than good, diverting money that could be used to stimulate the U.S. economy to create an ineffectual shield that could ultimately result in national embarrassment and possibly create a target inciting further terrorist action.
At a time when economists have acknowledged that the U.S. economy is slipping into the quicksand of recession, it is no time to use taxpayer money on a project that will not benefit the economy. The plan calls for the construction of a missile defense in Alaska, outside of the continental United States. Most of the money would end up in the deep pockets of government contractors, and benefitting only a handful of Americans.
Instead, the Bush administration should be providing tax relief to low-income families to promote consumer spending, as well as college credits to encourage higher education. Following Mr. Bush’s tax rebate, and the cessation of the estate tax, more and more money is stagnating in the accounts of the wealthy, bringing economic growth to a standstill. Consumer spending must be incited, not contractor savings.
Concurrently, there is slight evidence that such a missile shield would be effective. In preliminary trials, only one of three decoy missiles were shot down. Does a thirty-three percent success rate warrant profligate government spending? Moreover, experts have indicated that the types of missiles used by rogue nations are not reflected in the government’s tests. The Pentagon has assumed the missiles being fired would be medium-range intercontinental ballistic missiles which spin in a football-like fashion to ensure targeting accuracy. Ballistics launched by rogue nations are more likely to follow wobbly trajectories, the kind of missiles that might not hit Central Park but could certainly hit New York. These missiles, they counter, would be even harder to hit than the decoys proposed in the government’s tests. If the success rate thus falls below thirty-three percent, is this reason enough to initiate a multibillion dollar project?
Following the events of Sept. 11, the United States cannot afford to look like an ailing, foolish superpower. The missile shield would embarrass the nation, damaging our role in international diplomacy.
Finally, the shield would serve as a bull’s eye for terrorists and rogue nuclear states. The world has seen that the U.S. is vulnerable, and nations like Iraq can only hope to capitalize on such vulnerability. The failure of preliminary tests is no secret. A missed weapon would make the U.S. look defenseless, and serve as a call-to-arms to anti-American extremists everywhere. Who could resist an opportunity to deal the U.S. another crippling, and even more devastating blow? Without the shield, such a strike would be tragic. With it, it would not only be an I Told You So to such countries as Russia, which opposes dissolution of the ABM treaty, but would also dramatically reduce the global negotiating power of the United States.
In short, we cannot allow the Bush administration to play off the fear of the American people. The missile shield is Reagan’s Star Wars program in disguise, but with a higher price tag and potentially deleterious effects. Oppose the shield and send a message to terrorists everywhere, that fear shall not dictate our foreign policy.

–John Byrne
College junior

November 9
November 16

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