DEFENDING AMERICA: The Case for Limited National Missile Defense
Release date: 05/01/2001
In a potential blueprint for President George W. Bush's defense team, the authors construct an argument for a limited missile defense system. Such a shield has hovered over U.S. political discourse since Ronald Reagan proposed Star Wars in 1983, but the authors, senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, note that Lyndon B. Johnson first raised the idea in 1967. Lindsay (Congress and Nuclear Weapons), formerly of the National Security Council (during Clinton's presidency), and O'Hanlon (Technological Change and the Future of Warfare), who teaches at Columbia and Georgetown and has worked for the Congressional Budget Office, weigh three possibilities: a complete shield, as proposed by Reagan; no shield; and the limited one they favor. Their plan includes interceptors to shoot down missiles early in their flight, and midcourse interceptors like those President Clinton proposed. They admit their proposal's weaknesses—including possible negative reactions from Russia and China—but ultimately decide that such a system is both feasible and secure enough to defend the U.S. against attacks from "rogue nations" such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea. "The fact the United States cannot defend itself perfectly against every threat is no reason to give up the effort," Lindsay and O'Hanlon assert. They include appendixes of past weapons treaties and U.S. intelligence estimates of threats posed by other nations. Policy wonks will devour this thorough, academic book; other readers seeking a conservative, interventionist treatment of a hot topic will also benefit. (May)
Forecast: A dry, rigorous study, this has narrow appeal, but will receive attention and trickle down into public debate.