Jul 25 2006

Concentrating on missile defense

The Washington Times

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

The British wit Samuel Johnson once declared, "The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully." The televised images of various missiles being launched from places as far removed as North Korea and Lebanon should have a similar effect on American minds, both those of citizens and those of elected officials who represent them.

Unfortunately, the problem is not confined to the worrying implications of North Korea's spasm of seven ballistic missile test launches (six successful, one a dud) on July Fourth. Neither should it be obscured by the relatively unsophisticated, but still lethal, missile volleys Hezbollah has rained down on population centers in Israel, and their repercussions, that have temporarily driven the North Korean danger from our front pages.

Consider the following other, mind-concentrating data points:

* Cash-strapped North Korea has made no secret of its readiness to sell military hardware to willing buyers. This has given rise to active missile technology-sharing and/or joint development projects with nations like Pakistan, Iran and Yemen with longstanding ties to terrorism.

* News reports suggest Pakistan a nation one heartbeat away from having a full-fledged Islamofascist regime is ramping up its capacity to build as many as 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year. If Pakistani ballistic missiles of ever-increasing-range are armed with such weapons and put in the service of the Islamists, democratic India will not be the only country at risk.

* Iran also aspires to place the nuclear weapons it is a-building and their missile delivery systems in the service of global jihad. Not only does the Iranian regime threaten to "wipe Israel off the map" and bring about a "world without America." It has also tested ballistic missiles in a way that suggest it is acquiring the means to effect such outcomes.

Among Iran's missile developments, two are particularly worrying: First, the regime has test-launched a short-range Scud missile off of a ship. The ability to use a mobile, seagoing platform means the regime and its friends need not seek long-range missiles to attack distant targets. Such an attack has one other attraction: By bringing a Scud-type missile of which there are thousands around the world, including the dozen or so North Korea delivered to Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland, Yemen, a few years back near the enemy's shoreline, strategic warning can be kept to an absolute minimum.

Second, Iran has tested its medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile in a manner that appears designed to detonate a nuclear weapon in space. This could allow Tehran to execute the sort of missile-delivered strike that has been judged by a congressionally mandated, blue-ribbon commission to be capable of causing "catastrophic" damage to the United States an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. By wiping out electrical systems and electronic devices, possibly coast-to-coast, America could be reduced to a pre-industrial society in the blink of an eye.

* Then, there is China's ballistic missile arsenal. Despite determined U.S. efforts to portray the communist regime in Beijing as a reliable partner in American diplomacy and trade, it is inexorably building ever-larger numbers of missiles. Increasingly, these are capable not only of intimidating Taiwan but also of attacking the United States something Chinese generals twice have publicly threatened to do. PRC technology has also been an enabler of many other nations' ballistic missile programs, both directly and through proxies like Pakistan and North Korea.

* Last but not least, there is Russia. Vladimir Putin has personally helped market new Russian spiraling and maneuvering missile re-entry vehicle technology as breakthroughs that will allow attackers defeat American missile defenses. He has also presided personally over simulated massive nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missile strikes on the United States.

George W. Bush deserves great credit for ending the insane policy he inherited of leaving the United States absolutely vulnerable to ballistic missile attack. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that codified that vulnerability and he began deploying limited missile defenses, mostly ground-based ones in Alaska and California.

Clearly, while these steps were necessary, they are not sufficient in a world in which the missile threat is metastasizing. Leading members of Congress like Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both of Alabama, and Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania have long recognized this reality. Now, it is time for their colleagues and the public to join forces behind a concerted effort to deploy defenses capable of defeating the emerging threat.

Fortunately, a newly released report by the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, the Space Relationship and the Twenty-First Century (www.ifpa.org/publications/IWGReport.htm) lays out a roadmap for such defenses. It calls for substantially expanding the Navy's sea-based defenses to provide, among other things, protection of the U.S. East Coast and interior from attacks launched from and beyond the Atlantic.

The working group also makes clear the imperative of developing and deploying missile defenses where they can do the most good at least cost: in space. And it describes ways in which the necessary technical, public and political support can be obtained and sustained.

The starting point for such support should be at hand the wonderful concentration of minds engendered by the prospect in our time of a mass, missile-delivered "hanging."

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.