' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2002 / 12 Teves, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Serious about defending America

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Some good may yet come in the wake of the disastrous decision to permit North Korean ballistic missiles to reach Yemen -- a nation long supportive of international terrorism and still awash with al Qaeda operatives. This latest evidence of the accelerating, world-wide proliferation of delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction may contribute to a decision as early as today by President Bush to begin, at long last, the deployment of defenses against such missiles.

The case for putting anti-missile defenses into place was underscored by this sobering fact: A ship like the North Korean vessel that was covertly carrying Scud B missiles and forcibly intercepted in the Arabian Sea last week could be steaming off the coast of the United States at this very moment.

There are some 25,000 ships plying the world's oceans at any given time. Who are the real owners of many of these vessels is often unclear, as is the true nature of their cargoes. Is it possible, therefore, that one could be transporting a Scud-type missile -- loaded, not in its hold under sacks of concrete, but onto a transporter-erector-launcher -- and remain undetected as it moved within range of one of America's many littoral population centers?

The limits of our maritime surveillance capabilities are such that we might not have any inkling of an attack until after the missile had been erected and launched. And, since we have no defense currently deployed in this country against even one such missile, there would be nothing we could do to stop it from arriving with deadly effect.

Think this scenario implausible? Think again. The United States demonstrated the capability to launch a ballistic missile from a surface ship nearly forty years ago.

Then, in 1998, the blue-ribbon Commission on Ballistic Missile Threats chaired by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that others might seek such a capability. The bipartisan commission noted that, by so doing, nations without long-range missiles would nonetheless be able to attack the United States. And, on October 24th, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told a conference organized by Frontiers of Freedom think-tank that an unnamed "rogue state" was known to be interested in such an option.

The episode with Yemen -- whose government had initially denied any knowledge of the North Korean missile shipment -- offers an even more alarming prospect: What if the rogue state enabled terrorists to get their hands on a missile and its launcher? As every day's headlines bring new reports of the deadly weapons programs of terrorist-sponsoring states (notably, Iraq, North Korea and Iran), it must be assumed that such a hand-me-down, sea-launched missile could be used to deliver a weapon of mass destruction to our shores.

President Bush is reportedly poised to respond to this and other missile threats by ordering for the first time the deployment of missile defenses. While the details of his decision remain closely held, it appears that Mr. Bush will direct the Navy to modify ships equipped with the Aegis fleet air defense system so as to enable them to shoot down ballistic missiles. Three successive tests in recent months have demonstrated the inherent feasibility of this system. Thanks to the existing 60-ship Aegis infrastructure, it offers the fastest and least expensive way to begin defending the United States against the threat of ballistic missile attack. The mobility of these ships, moreover, enables them to be positioned to provide protection as needed to U.S. forces and allies overseas, as well.

The President's decision will presumably also clear the way for other missile defense capabilities to be brought to bear as quickly as possible. These could involve ground-based anti-missile systems, airborne lasers and space-based sensors and, in due course, weapons (interceptors and directed energy).

The most important thing is to begin putting defenses into place where they may be able to deter missile attacks, and to stop them if deterrence fails. Just as Mr. Bush concluded with respect to his difficult decision to allow the vaccination of all Americans against smallpox, under present wartime circumstances, it is more important to have some anti-missile capability -- even if it is imperfect -- than to remain completely vulnerable.

The time has come to defend America. If President Bush decides to do so by swiftly beginning anti-missile deployments at sea, he will not only be responding appropriately to the threat posed by the ongoing proliferation of Scud and more capable ballistic missiles. He will, for the first, time be creating a real disincentive for actual and prospective enemies to invest precious resources in these delivery systems -- an invaluable new strategic tool for addressing and countering the North Korean regime, without having to wage war against it.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


12/03/02: Defining 'regime change'
11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.