The Flaws in the System
Troubling Questions About Missile Defense
By DAVID KRIEGER
On September 1, 2006, the US held a missile defense test, which has
been widely heralded by the government as a "success." The $80 million
test involved a dummy warhead launched from Kodiak Island in Alaska,
which was intercepted and destroyed by an interceptor missile launched
from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Lt. General Henry Obering III, the director of the Missile Defense
Agency, was rhapsodic in his praise for the test: "I don't want to ask
the North Koreans to launch against us that would be a realistic
end-to-end test. Short of that, this is about as good as it gets."
For the defense contractors profiting from the missile defense system,
such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, this must be
about as good as it gets. But the rest of the American public, who
might end up as victims of a nuclear attack and who have already paid
over $100 billion for the development of missile defenses, are
entitled to a lot more clarity on just how realistic such a test is.
While the interceptor missile did destroy the dummy warhead, there are
many questions worth asking.
First, if the system works so well, why did it have to be postponed
due to bad weather the previous day? Will the system work only in good
weather? Will cloud cover make the system ineffective?
Second, did the Missile Defense Agency include a homing device in the
dummy warhead, as it has frequently done in the past, to help guide
the interceptor missile to its target? Homing devices in the target
dummy warheads have made the missile defense tests seem a lot more
successful than they really are, and it is highly unlikely that a
potential enemy would want to help our missile defense system by
placing homing devices in their warheads.
Third, would the system be able to work against a sophisticated
attacking missile that was able to take evasive action or against an
attack by multiple missiles? There is also the question of whether the
system would be able to find the real warheads hidden in a volley of
After the recent test, General Obering commented, "I feel a lot safer
and sleep a lot better at night." While the general may feel safer, I
doubt that the American people should feel safer until these questions
are answered to their satisfaction.
If the rest of us want to join General Obering in feeling safer and
sleeping better at night, perhaps we should encourage our government
leaders to try diplomacy aimed at building friendships and
partnerships with potential enemies, rather than continuing to base
our security and our future on a costly and ineffectual missile
defense system that is likely to fail under real world conditions.
Another cost effective way of improving our security would be to
encourage our top officials to show some actual leadership in
achieving the obligations for nuclear disarmament that are set forth
in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW