The United States currently spends less than 1% of its military budget on defense of the American homeland against a nuclear missile attack. Instead, it depends on the threat of retaliation-in-kind to deter nuclear aggression. However, arguments first formulated during the Cold War for why strategic defenses are not feasible or desirable have begun to unravel due to the appearance of new technology and the changing geopolitical landscape. First, offensively-based deterrence can’t cope with a range of plausible warfighting scenarios such as the emergence of irrational, nuclear-armed adversaries. Second, active defense doesn’t necessarily destabilize the nuclear balance except in certain circumstances that might not obtain. Third, the information revolution has fostered technological breakthroughs that potentially make effective defense more feasible. Fourth, a layered missile defense has the potential to intercept over 90% of incoming warheads even though its individual layers are far from perfect. Finally, the price-tag for robust active defenses of the American homeland probably would be less than what the Pentagon is wasting today on hopeless causes like trying to save the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan. I have written a commentary for The National Interest here.
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