Mona Charen

They've been dreading a U.S. anti-missile capability since Ronald Reagan first proposed it in the 1980s. Then-Congresswoman (now Sen.) Barbara Boxer called the Strategic Defense Initiative "the president's astrological dream ... a dream of laser weapons powered by nuclear explosions, particle beam weapons, chemical rockets and space based interceptors parked in 'garages' in orbit." Then-Sen. Al Gore called SDI "not feasible." Journalist Ted Koppel summed up the conventional wisdom among liberals when he declared, "I think that what is being proposed for expenditure on Star Wars [sic] is absolute nonsense. Anything like an SDI program is going to put us in a position where, naturally, the Russians are going to feel threatened." Besides, he continued, reciting the then-prevalent "It's Dangerous and it Won't Work" mantra, "There is no way it is going to work within the next twenty years and it is going to cost not billions, not tens of billions, not hundreds of billions, but trillions of dollars."

The New York Times labeled the idea "a pipe dream, a projection of fantasy into policy." Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis was equally dismissive. He called SDI "a fantasy -- a technological illusion which most scientists say cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future. The defenses they envision won't make the United States more secure "

As recently as 1999, when Congress was considering funding for missile defense, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., once again invoked the old George Lucas imagery to debunk the idea. "Like the movie, this is a phantom solution -- hitting a bullet with a bullet in outer space."

But hitting a bullet with a bullet has become almost routine. On Sept. 28, 2007, also high above the Pacific Ocean (75 miles), another "Star Wars fantasy" vehicle successfully destroyed the mock warhead of a long-range missile. Many other recent tests have shown similar success. In fact, the U.S. is joined by 30 other nations who are working on missile defense systems. For those whose delicate constitutions forbid them to take comfort in military strength, they may consider that this same technology may one day save Earth from a catastrophic meteor strike.

Contra Ted Koppel, our capability to shoot hurtling satellites (and more dangerous flying objects) out of the sky did not cost trillions of dollars. According to the Associated Press, since 1983, we've spent approximately $100 billion on missile defense, a small percentage of overall defense spending during that period.

It turns out that American ingenuity can hit a bullet with a bullet. But there is still no cure for liberal shortsightedness.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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