THE PHANTOM DEFENSE: America's Pursuit of the Star Wars Illusion

Craig R. Eisendrath, Author, Gerald E. Marsh, Joint Author, Melvin A. Goodman, Joint Author . Praeger $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-275-97183-0

The authors (Eisendrath and Goodman are senior fellows with the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.; Marsh is a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory) present a sound indictment of the missile defense plans of the Bush administration. The thesis of this compressed, not overly technical book is that effective defense against incoming ballistic missiles is impossible given the current state of technology. Countermeasures (camouflaging the real warhead, decoys) against a defensive system can be devised by an attacking state at low cost, so the defensive system cannot reliably distinguish real from sham targets. The authors see no point in pouring $100 billion or more into a system so fraught with technical difficulty and so vulnerable to unsophisticated countermeasures. If national missile defense is the "phantom" of the book's title, then why has it been pursued so intensively by the right wing of American politics? For the authors, the answer lies in the alliance of defense contractors, who have benefited from the enormous sums spent on Star Wars initiatives since the Reagan years, with politicians on the right, who batten on campaign contributions from those contractors. The authors trace how pressure to portray missile defense as feasible has led to exaggeration of threats, rigged tests and suppression of inconvenient data. This book presents a partisan but powerful case, one that advocates of national missile defense will be called upon to rebut. The outcome of the debate matters, and not only because of the money at stake. If the authors here are correct, deploying even an ineffective missile defense will trigger a renewed arms race and jeopardize rather than enhance U.S. security. (Oct)

Reviewed on: 09/10/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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