- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2000


National Missile Defense (NMD) remains a moving target, in more ways than one. Every successful test, every failure, is being watched with minute interest, not least by the opponents of the project. Like Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, which was dismissed as propaganda and airy-fairy notions by liberals, Democrats and all sorts of unfriendly nations abroad, NMD is giving heart palpitations to lots of people. How a defensive shield against missile attack from rogue nations abroad can possibly be construed as an instance of American aggression is puzzling in the extreme, but there you have it.
From worshippers of arms control treaties who believe the outdated Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to be Holy Writ to Chinese generals, opponents of this eminently good idea are gathering their forces for the fight to come. Interestingly, the American people, when asked in a reasonable fashion, think NMD is such a good idea that they believe we already have one. Our international friends and allies, who live in rough neighborhoods, next to China, for instance, or at the epicenter of conflict in the Middle East, think missile defense is a terrific concept.
Tuesday's missile-to-missile interceptor test over the Pacific Ocean, which failed in its last stage, will no doubt be cause for rejoicing among the anti-NMD crowd. But the fact is that you test a system to see if it works, right? That is presumably how all weapons systems have evolved, going back to the catapult and the slingshot. As noted by James Hackett, national security official in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, this failure follows upon six successful interceptor tests last year, two with the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), two with the new Patriot program, one with the Israeli Arrow program and the first attempt with a NMD interceptor.
And it's not as though there aren't good reasons out there to work overtime to make NMD functional. Last week, it was also revealed that Iran is thought to be close to a nuclear bomb, thanks to the helpfulness of Russia, which has announced the sale of three nuclear reactors to Tehran, in addition to a long list of other disturbing items that have been flowing that way for years, much to U.S. dismay of course. The thought of nuclear-armed mullahs is not a happy one.
In other words, the critics should not be so ready to rejoice. We will all live to regret it if we don't get the technology right in time.

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