Letter to the Editor at Harpers Magazine
To The Editor:Jonathan Schell’s essay concerning our ongoing nuclear crisis [“The Unfinished Twentieth Century,” January] correctly notes that the Clinton Administration’s plans to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system are incompatible with the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty and its subsequent protocol. However, the treaty was ratified at a time when the prospect of nuclear rogue states such as North Korea and Iran seemed quite remote. Today that danger is on the verge of becoming a reality. Leaving the nation undefended against even the most primitive nuclear threats thus has a very different meaning in the year 2000 than it had a quarter century ago.
Since the cost of the administration’s plan is negligible compared with the savings that would result from stopping even a few nuclear warheads from reaching their targets on U.S. soil, there are really only two questions that matter: Will it work, and what is the likely Russian response? I would submit that current technology will work against a small number of first-generation warheads such as North Korea is likely to possess, and will not work against the bigger and more sophisticated threat Russia is capable of mounting.
This is, of course, precisely the goal the administration has in mind – depriving rogue states of nuclear leverage while assuring the Russians of an effective deterrent. You don’t have to embrace every detail of Clinton Administration strategy to see that the Russians have little reason to be concerned, and that we can no longer tolerate the risks that result from being completely defenseless against nuclear aggression.
Find Archived Articles: