November 11, 1998
Now that the hyperbole of the political campaign is behind us, the
Republican Congress should buckle down to the business of doing its
constitutional duty to provide for the common defense. In the post-Cold War era, Republicans have been seeking a major issue to serve as a
unifier and motivator, and there is no better goal than the protection
of the lives and property of American citizens from attack by rogue
This issue can rally the troops of all factions of the
conservative movement: fiscal and social activists, free traders and
protectionists, interventionists and America Firsters, libertarians and
the religious right. It's also an issue that cleverly banishes to left
field the liberals who haven't shaken off their Cold War pacifism.
Fortunately, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has provided
Congress with enough talking points to win the argument both in the
strategic arena and in the 20-second soundbite television debates. The
nine-member bipartisan Ballistic Missile Threat Commission he chaired
released a report that is credible, unanimous, and ominous.
The commission warns us that "hostile nations" such as North
Korea, Iran and Iraq, are making "concerted efforts . . . to acquire
ballistic missiles with biological or nuclear payloads" that will be
able "to inflict major destruction on the U.S. within about five years
of a decision to acquire such a capability." And further, we are
warned that "the U.S. might not be aware that such a decision has been
Can't we rely on the U.S. intelligence community to keep us posted
on imminent military threats? The Rumsfeld Commission warns us that
the threat from rogue countries is "evolving more rapidly" than U.S.
intelligence has told us, and that our ability to detect the threat is
"eroding" because "nations are increasingly able to conceal important
elements" of their missile programs.
We also continue to be threatened by the existing ballistic
missile arsenals of Russia and China, and the fact that both are
exporters of ballistic missile technologies to countries hostile to the
United States. Russia has accelerated Iran's missile program, and
China has carried out extensive transfers to Iran and Pakistan.
"Foreign assistance is not a wild card. It is a fact," according
to the Rumsfeld Commission. A nation that wants to develop ballistic
missiles and weapons of mass destruction can easily get assistance from
The Rumsfeld Commission notes that North Korea has a "well
developed" ballistic missile infrastructure, and it is unlikely that
the U.S. would know of a decision to deploy its missiles. House
National Security Committee Chairman Floyd Spence (R-SC) concluded that
"the missile threat is not 15 years away, it is here and now."
The CIA reported this year that 13 of China's 18 long-range
nuclear missiles are now targeted at U.S. cities. Four of these
missiles were produced in the first four months of 1998.
China's new missile capability gives that regime a tremendous
opportunity for blackmail to achieve its goals, such as taking over
Taiwan. The Rumsfeld report noted that Gen. Xiong Guangkai is already
on record as threatening the United States by boasting that we would
not be willing to "trade Los Angeles for Taipei."
The Clinton Administration's response to the growing missile
threat is to try to resuscitate the moribund 1972 ABM Treaty, recite
the insulting mantra "Star Wars, Star Wars," and oppose all
appropriations to build any system to shoot down incoming missiles.
Clinton's position is so untenable as to be downright ridiculous.
Under international law, our 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)
Treaty with the Soviet Union expired when that country went out of
existence in 1991. This is admitted by legal scholars and even by the
author of the 1972 treaty, Henry Kissinger.
The Clinton Administration is trying to resurrect it by signing a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with four of the 15 states born out
of the former Soviet Union: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia.
This would allow those four to outvote the U.S. on interpretation and
The remaining 11 countries would be free to develop, test and
deploy ABM systems, along with all the other countries identified by
the Rumsfeld Commission, while the United States would be forbidden to
do so. The MOU is actually a new treaty, also known as the ABM
Expansion Treaty, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
This MOU/ABM Expansion Treaty would perpetuate the asinine policy
known as MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), which means promising to
keep Americans undefended against incoming missiles. Since the
liberals have no sensible argument against this, they just go into
their "Star Wars, Star Wars" tantrum.
We live in a dangerous world, which has a lot of powerful men who
are evil or irrational (or both), unpredictable, and hate Americans.
Even with unlimited access to highly classified information, Rumsfeld
said, "There is a lot we don't know, can't know and won't know . . .
there will be surprises."
Congress has no greater duty than to act now to protect American
lives against this threat. Building an anti-missile defense will be
the litmus test for how we judge the 106th Congress.