Of Missiles, Men, and Money

Posted: Jul 22, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On the eve of President Bush's departure for this weekend's G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, Russian President Vladimir Putin and communist China's Jiang Zemin sat down in Moscow, the only city on the planet currently protected by a ballistic missile defense system, and signed a 20-year "Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation." Shortly thereafter, Jiang told students at Moscow State University -- where he studied in the days of Joe Stalin -- that the United States shouldn't deploy its own ballistic missile defenses because "no country can build its security by abridging the security interests of other nations." Then, perhaps missing the irony, Beijing's strongman popped off for a quick little visit to a Russian weapons plant that exports rocket launchers to the People's Liberation Army to aim at Taiwan. Ominous developments? Alarming? A cause for anxiety? Apparently not in official Washington. At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said of last Monday's Moscow-Beijing compact, "We don't see it as any particular threat to us or to our plans." That "statement of concern" isn't all that different from then-Secretary of State Cordell Hull's observation ("So?") when he was asked about the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, signed in August of 1939. And up on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, found nothing alarming about a Chinese communist instigated Sino-Russian agreement. At the Pentagon, where they defer to Foggy Bottom on issues of what's to be said about Russian-PRC pacts, they were too busy celebrating the proof that we can "hit a bullet with a bullet" to take notice of what was happening in the Kremlin. Just a few hours after the Master of Moscow and the Boss of Beijing inked their deal in Joe Stalin's old office, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld congratulated the 35,000 military personnel and civilian technicians for the first successful launch of a ground-based interceptor to destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile target since 1999. The ICBM was launched on July 15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Twenty minutes later and 4,800 miles away, the interceptor was launched from the Ronald Reagan Missile Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Ten minutes later and 140 miles above the Earth, the interceptor, traveling at 16,200 mph, destroyed the simulated ICBM during its midcourse phase. According to Rumsfeld, "Ballistic missile defense is no longer a problem of invention, but rather a challenge of engineering." On that point, he was dead wrong. The real challenge in building a ballistic missile defense system isn't engineering -- it is political. And that's because from the administration to the leadership in the Congress, too few are willing to identify the true threats we face. The reason for building a robust sea-space-land based missile defense system isn't because of the fear of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. It isn't to defend against the errant launch of one or two of Russia's 1,000 or so ICBMs. And it isn't because the North Koreans continue to develop their three-stage Taepo Dong space launch vehicle. The real threat isn't just Iran's 1,300 km-rage Shahab-3 or Paksitan's Ghuari Medium-range Ballistic Missiles. The real reason we need to develop and deploy a National Missile Defense system, and dramatically improve our Theater Missile Defenses, is because the nice folks in Beijing, the very ones who just captured the 2008 Summer Olympics, are preparing for war. Their military publications say it. Their leaders say it. Their actions reveal it. To ignore this reality places us in grave peril. In Washington, where myopia is the most prevalent malady, there are already complaints that the country cannot afford to build strategic defenses and still maintain adequate conventional forces. Yet, as Rumsfeld pointed out to the House Appropriations Committee this week, "the Defense Department is currently receiving something less than 2 percent of the gross national product of the United States and the missile defense budget is in total less than 2.5 percent of the defense budget." In short, if more is needed -- and it is -- then the administration needs to ask for it. Rumsfeld confided to the House appropriators that the Pentagon needs $347 billion in fiscal year 2002, which begins October 1, just to maintain current programs. That is $18 billion more than the $329 billion the administration requested, only $8 billion of which is slated for missile defense. Meanwhile, in Genoa, at the G-8 Summit, the Euro-crats are whining about U.S. plans for strategic homeland defense. They would do well to heed the warning of Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, who said this week that Taiwan's 22 million people "have lived for a very long time under a missile threat on a daily basis." That is why he is calling for the development of a joint theater missile defense. Six decades ago, the United States was unprepared and unconcerned, and we ended up rallying the country with the battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor." If we don't prepare soon, we could end up trying to rally what's left of the country with "Remember Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Norfolk, San Diego ..."