www.examiner.com The Washington DC Examiner Newspaper, The Examiner Editorial July 6, 2006
North Korea’s threatening spate of missile launches — including an unsuccessful try with an advanced version of its Taepodong 2 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile that is capable of hitting the United States — has sparked a cacophony of talk from leaders and foreign policy experts around the world.
As they debate and discuss various options at the United Nations and in capitals around the globe, the rudimentary U.S. missile defense system is poised to shoot down anything launched from North Korea that threatens the American homeland or the critical interests of our regional allies like Japan and Australia.
Noticeably absent are the voices of those who, since President Reagan first proposed such a system in 1984, have fought development and deployment of the missile defense system the U.S. must now depend upon in dealing with North Korea. These folks have claimed over and over that the system they derisively call “Star Wars” can’t possibly work, would be too expensive, would incite a new world arms race, etc., etc. Names that come to mind in this regard include senators like Joe Biden, D-Del., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the Clinton-Gore administration that delayed and dilly-dallied with work on missile defense for most of the ’90s.
It is important that the American people understand two aspects of the current crisis as it relates to missile defense. First, the system President Bush recently ordered advanced from its testing stage to operational status when the North Koreans began preparing the Taepodong 2 launch is extremely rudimentary because it is still being developed. The system now includes only 11 ground-based launch sites in Alaska and California capable of knocking out long-range missiles like the Taepodong 2, and four Aegis-class Navy destroyers equipped with missile defense battle management systems and Standard-3 missiles capable of hitting medium range threats.
Second, they will no doubt protest to high heaven, but “Star Wars” critics must bear the major burden of responsibility for the delays and setbacks that have prevented the missile defense system from becoming fully operational long before the present crisis with North Korea. There have been technological problems, especially in the very early stages, but those were temporary and subject to American technological prowess.
Far more serious have been the setbacks engineered by the critics — like then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell’s maneuvers to kill the first Bush administration’s Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (G-PALS) plan, the Clinton-Gore gutting of the Strategic Defense Initiative office in 1993 and the delaying tactics used by Senate Democrats in the first years of this decade to reduce the current program’s funding.
It is a sobering thought to wonder how much more secure the United States and its allies would be today in the face of madness like North Korea’s launches if instead of a limited defense still in development we could depend upon the robust protection first proposed many years ago.