The purpose of military defense for our country is to insure the safety of American citizens. The National Missile Defense System is a specific way to guard against a specific threat that the United States faces.

The NMDS would provide protection against ?states of concern.?

These are countries that cannot be assumed to act rationally. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevich and Kim Jong-II are examples of ?irrational? leaders, or those who do not have their nation?s best interests in mind.

North Korea, for example, has proven its capability to launch intermediate range missiles that would threaten the entire Pacific region. It is able to continue nuclear research and its war-like state includes a constant forward fighting position that threatens South Korea. Neither North Korea nor Iraq has a nuclear arsenal as large as that of Russia, but they are producing weapons of mass destruction.

An opinion piece titled ?Bush?s Missile Defense System Wasteful? by Dustin Tingley in the Feb. 15 issue of the Campus Times claimed that ?a country with a defensive system means that no other country could launch an effective counterstrike against them, leaving them free to mount a credible offensive campaign.?

Specific threat

The NMDS guards against a specific threat ? a small-scale assault of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, not a full-scale nuclear war as envisioned during the cold war.

What should be almost nerve-wracking is the fact that our military does not have any specific programs for ballistic missiles being launched from the sea or the air.

After a system goes into operational readiness, testing is needed to insure the system is reliable and effective. The last test failed to hit the target. Tingley?s piece remarks, ?tests have failed to reliably hit a single target. More importantly, no device has been developed to allow for the system to distinguish between decoys and a real missile.?

While it is true that the last test failed to hit the target, that was not the goal of this test. The main purpose was to detect and trace an attacking ICBM. This was achieved. Testing would also help the system to discriminate decoys, but this cannot be solved unless additional testing is performed.

Why should the United States spend money on this program? According to the previous opinion piece, Bush apparently wants to ?waste? our tax dollars to protect us against ?rogue states.? These are the same ?states of concern? mentioned above. It could hardly be a waste of money if a stronger protection of our country would be the result.

Some would assert that the rest of the world has no interest in destroying us. That would be a hard argument to sell to the families of the USS Cole or the people who work in the African embassies.

Iraq would also like to harm us, firing at pilots enforcing the No-Fly zone created as a result of their aggression.

We even had NATO inspectors in Iraq to make sure that Hussein was not making weapons of mass destruction. One may remember that these inspectors were kicked out some time ago. I guarantee that people all over the world work very hard at trying to destroy us.

Finally, it is often implied that Bush is ?uninformed? or ?paranoid.? Consider the rationality of this statement. Our president receives an intelligence briefing every day. The intelligence briefings provide facts on capability and whether or not the threat is significant. The capability and intent are proven, as demonstrated by North Korea?s consistent wartime deployment and Hussein?s ability to elude NATO inspectors.

The National Missile Defense System is expensive and risky, yet President Bush is faced with the job of protecting our country. The system may never become operational, but its worth trying. There are rogue nations in the world and ignoring the threat they pose to our nation is not an option.

O?Riordan is a senior.

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