Bullet Hits Bullet
Jude Wanniski
July 18, 2001


Memo To: Sen. Joseph Biden [D DE]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Missile Defense Test

To be honest, Senator, I did not expect to find that you turn out to be one of the most knowledgeable of all members of Congress on the intersection of military matters and diplomatic concerns. You have been marvelously skeptical of the Bush administration’s plans to break the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty we struck with Moscow in 1972, at a high point of the Cold War. I’m pleased to see that you remain dubious about the need to plunge ahead with deployment of a national missile defense shield, long before its science has been proven or its mission is clear. The Pentagon did successfully test its “kill vehicle” on Saturday, and you said you were pleased that the $60 billion you have voted over the past 20 years on R&D has yielded this success, although it is small indeed. The Pentagon acknowledges that it was an artificial test, in the sense we exactly knew when the incoming missile was launched and from what point in the Pacific.

There was a large balloon in the vicinity of the intercept, which the Defense Department said was meant to be a decoy. I’m still suspicious that it was meant to help our intercept ABM locate the incoming warhead. This was a point of contention last year, when the intercept failed even with the presence of the balloon, which I read has a profile ten times that of the incoming. On the Jim Lehrer PBS News Hour last night, Theodore Postal of MIT, who has provided the most consistent and logical arguments against the “science” involved, said by all means we should proceed with R&D. When asked when he thought it might reasonably become tested and proven in a true sense, he said he now could not imagine such a point, if the mission of the ABM is to bring down a lone missile from a rogue nation, or even a few, because it is so cheap for the “rogue” state to send myriad decoys along with the live missile. I was happy to hear him say that, because most skeptics simply argue that it would be cheaper for an unfriendly nation to send in a suitcase atomic weapon to blow up San Francisco or wherever.

At some point, Senator, it would useful for you to hold hearings on the political elements of these military options. With the Russians and Chinese now signing a friendship accord that is being viewed as a combination to challenge U.S. global hegemony, you have a perfect opening for such hearings. I’ve been arguing for a decade that when the Cold War ended, so did the paradigm of competing families within the family of nations. The United States is now on top of the heap, all alone, responsible for managing the global family. Notice I did not say “policing.” Because in an extended family, policing responsibilities must be apportioned to the various sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, when Father and Mother at the top of the pyramid provide wise guidance. In this paradigm, it becomes easier to see Moscow and Beijing becoming alarmed at the United States aborting the ABM Treaty, going it alone with a unilateral action that, to them, seems an obvious attempt by Uncle Sam to cement hegemony in place. What family can long live in peace and prosperity with a father who thinks he knows it all and who reaches for the stick every time one of his children does not do what he or she is told to do, without discussion. Yes, for little kids, obedience is expected, but even little kids will rebel against the use of force when they sense injustice. Grown children – in this case Euroland, Japan, China and Russia – are going to find ways to deal with parents who continue to insist on obedience, without any backtalk.

Several years ago, a fairly senior Chinese diplomat and I had dinner in Washington, and he asked me why I had spent so much time trying to help his country develop its economy, without asking anything in return. I told him that I had been taught by life experience the truth of Lord Acton’s famous remark that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And that I was afraid of my own country, now uncontested in the unipolar world, becoming a world bully as it realized its ability to overwhelm individual states with economic or military might. It seemed to me, I said, that having competition from China and Russia, Japan and Europe, would prevent the United States from becoming Uncle Bully. If you have not seen the current issue of the American Spectator, Senator, I recommend you read the article by Tom Bethell, one of the best and wisest political commentators on the right. You will find he identifies the anti-China faction within the Republican Party with the Weekly Standard, specifically Bill Kristol and David Brooks. Bethell understands that Kristol represents that intellectual and political force in our country that sees China as the most likely nation to become second in rank to us, sometime in the future, and that it is our mission to prevent any nation or group of nations from becoming second, or they will then think they should be first.

It is never possible to tell exactly how much insurance we should take out when securing our homes or our lives, because we don’t know the future. Perhaps Kristol & Co. will be proven correct if they are not heeded, and decades from now we will wish we had broken the ABM Treaty and ploughed ahead with a full-scale missile defense shield, costing several times the $60 billion you have already invested with your votes. This is why much more discussion is needed before we proceed, I suggest, and that is what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which you chair – is all about.