On Ballistic Missiles

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Condoleeza Rice was scheduled to give a speech on the new cornerstone of the Bush Administration's National Security policy - the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield.
On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.

The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.

The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.

The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.

"We need to worry about the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin released in the subway," according to excerpts of the speech provided to The Washington Post. "[But] why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open?"
My shouted reply to the last question: "Because our windows aren't open, you dolt!" The very nature of such weapons - the ballisticity of them, if you will - means exactly that. A ballistic projectile means that the flight path, or trajectory of the object will be determined entirely by the object's own momentum and gravity, a science also known as orbital mechanics. It is this fact that makes interception of the missile theoretically possible at all, because it allows you to know, with an accurate measure of the target's current position and velocity vector, where that target is going to be at any point in the future. And since you can work the math forward to get an interception point, you can also work it backwards. Since we understand orbital mechanics so incredibly well, this means that all ballistic objects have an effective "return address." Just work the math and you know exactly where the sucker was launched.

Now, think for a second about the implications of that return address. Now, factor in the overwhelming nuclear superiority America posses compared to any potential aggressor - the putative rogue nation. It is as clear as day that no one will ever launch a ballistic missile attack against the United States, since their Assured Destruction will be airborne before their first strike even detonates. By attacking America with a ballistic missile, you are committing national suicide, and every leader in the world knows it. That is the value of our nuclear weapons. That is why they are called a "deterrent." There is no way the Bush Administration was not aware of this fact. Bright middleschoolers are aware of this fact.

There are many other compelling reasons to oppose a Missile Shield, mostly geopolitical in nature, but no others are required. The Ballistic Missile Shield should be opposed because it protects us from a threat which does not exist.

Now, if they would come forward and say that the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield is a massive government subsidy for high-tech industry, with the goal of developing technology that will improve the lives of all Americans while simultaneously maintaining our position of global superiority, then I might give them a serious hearing. The Apollo program or the ISS, for instance, are both projects that were not strategically critical, but which have resulted in huge technological advances for America and the human race in general.

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