- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

Today is the dawn of a new age. After 30 years of constraining U.S. defenses, the 1972 ABM Treaty is passing into history, six months after President Bush gave Moscow his notice of withdrawal. But it is more than the end of an era, it is the end of a mindset. The once common view that arms-control treaties alone could bring security is dead and buried, along with the bizarre concept of mutual assured destruction. Never again will a U.S. government sign away its right to defend the country.
Construction will begin Saturday on the silos and other facilities at Fort Greely, Alaska, for the initial land-based missile interceptors. The first five are to be in place by October 2004, aided by ship-based ABM radars, which were banned by the treaty. By the end of his first term, President Bush will have accomplished what his predecessors did not he will have put in place a national missile defense capability.
But this limited system in Alaska, which will be used for further testing, is just the beginning. More interceptors will be added as needed, and a major development program to test and field a variety of missile-defense technologies will continue for decades, leading to a worldwide missile-defense network. And Russia will be part of it.
The U.S. and Russia agreed last month in Moscow to pursue missile defense cooperation, including joint missile-defense exercises and joint research and development. Unlike offensive forces, defenses threaten no one, and with radical regimes on its doorstep Russia needs missile defenses too. First is to get the planned joint U.S.-Russia early warning center operating, and then to develop a worldwide missile defense architecture that includes the Russians.
This level of U.S.-Russian cooperation, not seen since the end of World War II, shows how wrong were the congressional Democrats who fought hard to preserve the ABM Treaty. They warned darkly that ending the treaty would produce a new arms race and global instability. Instead, by moving to a defense-dominant posture with deep cuts in nuclear weapons, President Bush has achieved a new global stability. Sweeping aside dead treaties of the last century allows him to move forward in the new one.
It is hard to imagine how much the ABM Treaty hindered U.S. defenses. It severely limited defenses against the long-range missiles that threaten the United States, while not restricting defenses against short-range missiles. America's allies could defend themselves, as Israel is doing with its Arrow interceptor (largely paid for by the U.S.), but the U.S. could not. The lawyers who drafted the treaty were highly successful they made it impossible to defend the country.
The treaty's restrictions closed minds and prevented technological advances. Missile defense engineers learned never to suggest anything that might be seen as a possible violation. Officials applied tougher standards than the treaty itself to avoid any perception of a violation. Whole avenues of research were neglected. Artificial barriers were created to keep banned long-range missile developments separate from short-range missile technology not covered by the treaty.
Even though ballistic missiles travel through space, defenses in space were off-limits. President Clinton killed the promising concept of space-based interceptors early in his first term. He also put new restrictions on sea-based and tactical interceptors with the New York agreements of 1997, but these limitations were washed away along with the ABM Treaty.
The end of the treaty frees missile engineers to be creative. Now they can use faster and more advanced boosters, multiple warhead interceptors, and laser weapons, and base them anywhere, on land, sea, in space, or in the air. Layers of missile interceptors can be internetted by high-speed satellite communications with sea-based, space-based and land-based sensors to create a truly worldwide defense.
Defenses can be developed with the allies. Italy and Germany are cooperating in development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a missile defense based on the highly successful Patriot PAC-3 interceptor. But longer-range interceptors internetted with radars and improved early warning satellites also are needed by those allies threatened by the longer-range missiles being developed in Iran and elsewhere.
Missile defenses will complement the war on terrorism by making the acquisition of expensive ballistic missiles an unwise investment for terrorists and their state sponsors. There is a 100 percent correlation between the state sponsors of terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction. Effective defenses will help discourage those efforts.
The Pentagon now is working on the architecture for a worldwide "system of systems" that could spot a launch anywhere on Earth, track it, and direct the nearest interceptors to stop it. Such a global system of layered defenses, protecting both the homeland and America's friends and allies, is now possible only because President Bush had the political courage to withdraw from the ABM Treaty.

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

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