- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Yesterday, in a speech at the National Defense University, President George W. Bush stated again that one of the foremost priorities of his administration would be the development and deployment of a robust missile defense system. The principal requirement, the president made clear, would be achieving the very effectiveness that Bill Clintons policies were designed to avoid out of fear of having to abandon the sacrosanct ABM Treaty. For his part, Mr. Bush left no doubt that the anachronistic ABM treaty, a Cold War relic, would not be permitted to impede that goal.
Mr. Bush outlined a plan that would be far more extensive than the one Mr. Clinton was considering. Meanwhile, other officials have revealed that the Pentagon is developing plans for a multi-layered missile defense system. In addition to the relatively ineffective land-based system favored by the Clinton administration, the Pentagons plan reportedly includes sea-based, space-based and airborne elements. Also, the New York Times reported this week that, according to a briefing paper recently circulated in the Pentagon, a panel appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed significant spending increases for such development.
Not only would a multi-layered system be far more effective than merely a land-based system, it would also provide defense for both U.S. troops deployed overseas and American allies, a goal Mr. Bush expressed during the presidential campaign and mentioned again yesterday. Indeed, Mr. Bushs leadership on missile defense brought once-reluctant European allies toward accepting the inevitability of missile defense deployment. That was the message from an international security conference held earlier this year in Munich. Mr. Bushs leadership was in further evidence on Monday when he telephoned and consulted with allied leaders in Britain, France, Canada and Germany as well as NATOs secretary general. Yesterday morning the president called Russian President Vladimir Putin, who must now realize that he no longer exercises the effective veto he used to with the Clinton administration. However, in recognition of the fact that the world situation has changed since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Bush repeated his intention to reduce Americas nuclear arsenal to its lowest possible level consistent with national security.
Because the U.S. Navy already has invested tens of billions of dollars in its Aegis battle-management system, the sea-based component may prove to be the option that can be developed most quickly. Considering that more than 20 Third World nations now have ballistic missile programs and several rogue nations North Korea, Iran and Iraq, for example are believed to be within several years of deploying long-range missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction, time is of the essence. By their nature, rogue nations, sometimes ruled by irrational dictators, cannot be assumed to respond to the Cold War deterrence of "mutual assured destruction." For them, as Mr. Bush rightly observed, terrorism and blackmail are a way of life. Nor can accidental launches by other nations be ruled out. Mr. Bush understands these facts. Now the world knows he will not be deterred from responding to them, although he commited his administration to "real consultations" with allies and others, including Russia and China. In the end, the world will prove to be a safer place.


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