- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2000

Last month, I brought bad news most of America's allies are siding with Russia and China in opposition to a U.S.

missile defense. Now I bring good news Lady Margaret Thatcher and a defense study group of the House of Lords have endorsed U.S. missile defenses.

Once again, Lady Thatcher has stood for what is right against the majority. In commenting on a report issued last week by the House of Lords Missile Proliferation Study Group, she wrote "This report is a wake-up call to the West. The threat from ballistic missile attacks against us from rogue states turns out to be greater, and growing more quickly, than anyone thought. We ignore it at our peril."

She urges the British government to acquire ballistic missile defenses and encourages the United States to create a global missile defense. "Our leaders will not be forgiven if they shirk this challenge," she wrote. Lady Thatcher, who stood virtually alone in her determination to fight the Argentine occupation of the Falklands, again is standing almost alone against the weight of European opinion.

The report she endorsed comes none too soon. It was issued on May 15 with the title, "Coming into Range: Britain's Growing Vulnerability to Missiles and Weapons of Mass Destruction." Prepared under the leadership of Lord Chalfont, president of the bipartisan defense group of the House of Lords, the study director was Gerald Frost.

Like its predecessor, the Rumsfeld Commission report issued here two years ago, the British report concludes the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction "poses a much more alarming threat" than a succession of British governments have been willing to admit. The threat, the study finds, presents both a direct danger to the population of Britain and its overseas forces, and an indirect danger of intimidation or blackmail by states with such weapons.

The report notes that the ballistic missile is the weapon of choice for Third World states because of its assured penetration, ease of concealment, the prestige it confers, and an increasing range that soon will enable rogue states to target Europe and America. It also finds the threat of ballistic missile attack can be a major deterrent to Western intervention when national interests are at stake.

The report adds, "Traditional arms control approaches to the proliferation problem have demonstrably failed." Nor can Britain rely any longer on Cold War deterrence to deal with threats to its interests. A ballistic missile defense, the report notes, is important both to preserve Britain's ability to project power to defend its interests, and to defend Britain itself if deterrence fails.

"It is not in Britain's interests," the report finds, "for the leader of the Western Alliance [the U.S.] to be vulnerable to missile threats as a result of misplaced faith in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and a flawed Cold War dogma." Britain, it adds, should support a U.S. decision to "free itself from the constraints of the treaty."

The paper concludes with the observation that a U.S. missile defense that does not cover the allies could lead rogue states to target them, rather than America. Therefore, it urges deployment of a global ballistic missile defense to protect the security interests of both America and its allies. This, it says, would enhance the cohesion of the Alliance and contribute to international stability.

Writing about the report, study director Mr. Frost was critical of European governments for failing to grasp the far-reaching political and strategic implications of the rapid proliferation of ballistic missiles. Europeans, he charged, have entered a new century with a misplaced confidence in arms control. They fail to grasp that rogue states will target countries that are undefended instead of those that are defended. If Europe is included in a missile defense system, it could lead to a renewal of the Western Alliance. If not, it could wreck it.

This bipartisan British report mentions neither the Blair government nor the Clinton administration, yet is implicitly critical of both. It accuses British governments of ignoring the threat and relying too heavily on arms control, while criticizing the U.S. for proposing to defend this country alone. The solution, Mr. Frost suggests, is to get out of the ABM treaty and deploy a global missile defense.

This support from England is welcome. It also is a warning, as Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush said recently U.S. plans to defend against missile defenses also must defend the allies. A missile defense of North America should be just the first step. At the same time it is being deployed, NATO and America's other allies should be offered advanced Patriots and the Army's high-altitude THAAD interceptors to give them regional missile defenses. Then sea-based interceptors and other technologies can be added as soon as they are ready, to create a truly global missile defense.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer for The Washington Times based in San Diego.

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