- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000


According to the State Department we are not meant to talk about rogue states any longer, only "states of concern." But I think we should all be extremely "concerned" about attempts to whitewash unpleasant regimes like those in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. All these countries have promoted or practiced violence. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction affords them new opportunities to threaten us and our allies.
The danger is already with us. In 1998 the Rumsfeld Commission noted that countries like North Korea, Iran and Iraq "would be able to inflict major destruction on the United States within about five years of a decision to acquire the capability," adding that for much of the time America might not know that such a decision had been taken.
With more and more countries acquiring nuclear capabilities, we must be resolute in retaining and updating our nuclear deterrent. This is still the ultimate guarantor of our security. I believe that the Senate did the world as well as the United States a huge service when it refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty.
Nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented. Nuclear arsenals can certainly be reduced as a result of the ebbing of the threat of a major nuclear exchange. But a nuclear weapons-free world is an infantile fantasy. That is why all those, including Britain, who shelter beneath America's nuclear umbrella should support its right to test its nuclear weapons.
With the end of the Cold War the nature of the threat has fundamentally changed, as has our ability to respond to it. It is the activities of rogue states and the possibility of unplanned launches of missiles armed with warheads which should now be our main concern. We must also be able to prevent the intimidation of friendly states like Taiwan. The way to achieve this is through the construction of an effective system of ballistic missile defense.
I suppose that one should never look for much intellectual consistency on the left of British politics. The left once engaged in noisy protests against nuclear weapons, because I presume they believed that having nuclear bases on our soil would make us targets for attack, and thus lead to our incineration. Yet they now evince a passionate desire to leave us wide open to just such incineration by contemptuously refusing to participate in ballistic missile defense, the only system that can prevent it. Such attitudes remind us, yet again, of why even the reconstituted left is a menace in high office.

Nuclear arsenals can certainly be reduced as a result of the ebbing of the threat of a major nuclear exchange. But a nuclear weapons-free world is an infantile fantasy. That is why all those, including Britain, who shelter beneath America's nuclear umbrella should support its right to test its nuclear weapons.

Of course, the recent failure of the test of a missile interceptor over the Pacific has given comfort to these people. But it shouldn't. The whole purpose of tests whether of missiles or missile interceptors is to improve them. I have no doubt that America has the capability to get the technology right. The soundest experts in this field advise that we need to build a fully integrated system which combines both space- and sea-based components, rather than the fixed, land-based one favored by the present administration.
There are, indeed, very strong reasons for building a global rather than merely a national missile defense system. Technically, it is safer for us, and more dangerous for our enemy, if their missiles can be destroyed in the boost-phase, before they are able to send out decoys. Politically, it will solidify the NATO alliance if all its members can be brought within this defense system. Strategically, global ballistic missile defense will reinforce America's position as the only truly global superpower, on which the security of all nations from missile attack rests.
To achieve these goals will be expensive. America's allies should meet a share of the cost. And delay must be avoided.
It is not for me to prescribe the precise technical solutions. But we should certainly avoid heavy investment in an unsatisfactory system determined by the constraints of an unsatisfactory treaty. The Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), which rules out sea- and space-based systems, is a Cold War relic. It is therefore rather surprising that today's liberals show such misplaced affection for it. In fact, the best lawyers tell us that the treaty has lapsed, because the other party to it, the Soviet Union, has ceased to exist. Moreover, whatever rationale it once had has certainly ended, now that an increasing number of unpredictable powers can threaten us with weapons of mass destruction. The ABM treaty is not, as the present U.S. administration believes, the "cornerstone of strategic stability." It is a worthless document that deserves to be consigned to one of history's many shredders.
In the course of a series of penetrating speeches on security matters, Gov. George W. Bush has spoken about the need for an effective ballistic missile defense which would also protect America's allies. I applaud his vision. The peace and security of the whole world depend on wise and courageous leadership from the White House.
Only America has the technology to build a global system of ballistic missile defense. Talk by Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, of an alternative European system is simply that talk.
Indeed, America's technological lead is so great, and growing so fast, that it has changed the whole basis of war-fighting. This is the shape of the future.

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. This article is based on a speech given at the Hoover Institution and was distributed by the United Press International.

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