Right in the midst of the news reports about al Qaeda’s plans to attack our financial institutions came some oddly reassuring news. Unfortunately, we will not be able to take comfort for long.
High Frontier, the organization that advocates developing a strategic missile defense system, recently noted that for the first time since the mid-1970s, our country is no longer completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles. We have a few ground-based missiles capable of countering North Korean long-range ballistic missiles. However, the North Koreans are pressing ahead with their missile development program. Our current edge over this Communist dictatorship cannot be counted on to last long.
Jane’s Defense Weekly has just reported that Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is developing two ballistic missiles, one of which is a sea-based missile that will soon permit this member of the “Axis of Evil” to put our country in its sites. Jane’s analysts view the sea-based missile to be the most dangerous. “It would fundamentally alter the missile threat posed by the DPRK and could finally provide its leadership with something that it has long sought to obtain — the ability to directly threaten the continental U.S.”
Most people forget that North Korea made a show of its fledgling ability to threaten First World nations six years ago by launching a long-range ballistic missile over Japanese airspace without permission.
Jane’s Defense Weekly maintains that North Korea is basing its new missiles on Russian technology, namely the submarine-launched Russian R-27 ballistic missile that had a range of at least 1,500 miles. Back in 1993, North Korea purchased 12 Russian submarines including some that were designed for this purpose. The official explanation for the purchase was that they were to provide scrap metal. Even though the submarines lacked the necessary equipment to launch missiles at the time of purchase, they retained “significant elements” of the launch capability. “This technology,” said Jane’s Defense Weekly, “in combination with the R-27 design, provided the Korean People’s Navy with elements crucial to the subsequent development of a submarine or ship-mounted ballistic-missile system.”
When the Berlin Wall fell, too many Americans took the demise of Soviet Russia and the Iron Curtain states as a sign that we had reached “the end of history” and armed conflicts would give way to financial prosperity and peace for all time. True conservatives are not ones to be fooled easily by such Panglossian predictions and many of us realized that we needed to maintain a strong defense able to handle future threats.
Threats do not have to come from long-range ballistic missiles, even short-range missiles such as SCUDs could be launched from a boat off our coast and wreak havoc on an American city. High Frontier warns that our East Coast would be quite vulnerable to such an attack and, despite the missile interceptors we now have available in Alaska and California, low-flying SCUDS would be able to underfly them and cause substantial damage and loss of life.
9/11 should have been a wakeup call that the kind of enemies our country faces — al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and North Korea’s Kim Jong II — are as large as life and no longer figments of the imagination of comic book writers. They pose a very real threat to our country. Too many members of both parties on Capitol Hill — even after 9/11 — treat our nation’s defense as if it is an afterthought. They use the appropriations process as gift baskets for their favored special interests, earmarking money for pork projects such as the Rock and Roll Museum, but shortchanging vital defense programs that could one day prove crucial in defending our country from attack by a rogue Third World country or even a terrorist group.
The Bush Administration has shown some receptiveness to testing and developing missile defense systems. More needs to be done. Our country must strive to develop more advanced sea-based and space-based missile defense systems that would be even more effective in guarding our country from a missile attack. This election is clearly important for determining the future direction of our country. One important issue that needs to be addressed during this campaign is just how well-prepared our country is to withstand an attack not just from terrorists crashing — an airplane or a truck loaded with hazardous materials — into a building, but a missile attack. If the presidential candidates and the Congress truly care about the future of our country, then they cannot avoid giving us their specific plans for improving our missile defense systems.