Austin Bay

Call this coming July Fourth Dependence Day -- the day marking prudent and responsible America's realization that we do indeed depend on the diplomatic power and technological capability of anti-missile defensive systems.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is threatening to fire a ballistic missile "test shot" at Hawaii on July Fourth. Kim's hyperbolic bombast and paranoid theatrics likely engage Pyongyang's opaque domestic intrigues. Still, the missile and the moment are dangerous -- and instructive.

The first decade of the 21st century has made it clear that we are engaged in a global battle between the constructive and the destructive -- constructive nations desiring peace and economic development confronted by destructive, extortionist rogue states and transnational terror syndicates. Ballistic missiles carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are marquee weapons, militarily and politically, in the bad guys' arsenal.

Missile defense thus plays a key military, political and psychological role in this global battle. Defending American citizens is the missile defense system's first priority. However, the ability to protect allies and neutrals generates diplomatic power in the grandest sense. The system's very existence serves as a psychological counter to thug intimidation and thus creates political space for other diplomatic endeavors to counter the rogue state threat.

Extending a U.S.-sponsored missile defense beyond North America isn't a new idea. In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan offered to share anti-missile technology with the Russians, his leftist critics laughed, mocked and jeered. But the great intuitive politician got it right: America has no interest in an Armageddon anywhere on the planet.

Fortunately -- despite decades of active, dramatic and often hysterical opposition from the American political left -- the United States has deployed an operational missile shield. Over the years, left-liberal Democrats devoted a great deal of ink, oratory and pixels to demonizing missile-defense advocates. In 2003, current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said: "The United States does not need a multi-billion-dollar national missile defense against the possibility of a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. What we need is a strong nonproliferation policy with other nations to combat the most serious threat to our national security."

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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