The United States’ fourth missile defense test took place Saturday and was hailed by the military as the program’s second successful run since October 1999. Proponents of the missile defense system are prematurely claiming victory, and President George W. Bush is politically gloating over the successful test. The truth of the matter, though, is that one test does not prove the system works. In addition to faulty science, the missile defense is on shaky political ground, nationally and internationally.
After the test, the Pentagon confirmed that the dummy warhead was destroyed, but the systems radar did not reflect that to the ground crew. The Pentagon states that the error was a minor glitch and the $100 million radar can easily be fixed. However, this is hardly a minor error. A vital aspect of the system is its ability to accurately relay information. Continued errors such as this demonstrate that the system is too underdeveloped to be considered a realistic tool in U.S. defense. It would be unwise for politicians in Washington, D.C., to seriously commit billions of dollars to the program.
In addition to an enormous commitment our government might make, global politics also play a role. The new “strategic partnership” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin can partially be attributed to our nation’s missile defense tests. Russia in particular denounced the missile defense system, contending its creation would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States. Continuing to develop the missile defense would require the United States to violate the treaty. Though this does appear to be America’s policy of late, it must be asked exactly how this has benefited our country. As our allies glance wearily at us, our enemies are hardly deterred by missiles that rarely hit their targets.
This pact between Russia and China is deeply concerning because of the potential for arms or technology sales to China. The United States might be worried, but not as much as Taiwan. The Taipei Times reported that in a recent address, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian conveyed his eagerness to be a part of the missile defense. The Bush administration should be wary of having other nations join on the missile defense bandwagon. There is no reason nations outside the United States should take part in a technological pipe dream. If the United States can even work out the basic technological kinks, then the government should seriously explore if it is a feasible defense against other nations.