TCS Daily


'Ballistic Missile Defense Week' to Define Bush National Security Goals

By Ken Adelman - April 30, 2001 12:00 AM

This is BMD Week -- destined to become a defining week in Bush national security policy. For on Tuesday, the President addresses ballistic missile defense at the National Defense University.

My commentary last week concluded that the Bush national security team hadn't done all that much different from Clinton's thus far. My commentary next week won't -- I hope -- after Tuesday, be able to repeat that.

If President Bush vividly pledges to research fast and deploy soon a robust missile defense system, he will begin shaping his singular legacy to American security.

Beyond implementing a new approach to U.S. national security, Bush could elevate his entire Administration in the following areas:
  • Leadership. Since March 30, 1983, when Ronald Reagan unveiled the Strategic Defense Initiative, every president has fiddled and faddled on managing the program itself. None, including Reagan, did much to alter or end the ABM Treaty. None organized a competent BMD research program, unfettered by legalistic dumb-downs due to ridiculous interpretations of an outdated treaty. None explained rationally to the Allies and Russians why, and that, we were deploying defenses. Hence, George W. Bush can now show leadership on BMD in a manner no previous president has.

  • Progressive Action. Liberals and Democrats fancy themselves as cutting-edge progressives. Along comes a conservative Republican president who tells them to "get with it." For clinging to the Cold War mindset of mutually assured destruction, as formalized by the ABM Treaty, shows them to be ludicrously outdated in the 21st Century. A conservative advocating something befitting our new era, with liberals holding onto the Cold War paradigm of a gone era, causes them some discomfort.

  • Moral Superiority. Liberals, conventional thinking goes, are most moral, while conservatives are basically selfish. Launching ballistic missile defense to protect America is one of the most moral postures any president could take. Leaving the country vulnerable to an unauthorized or accidental launch from Russia, or to an intentional launch from a rogue state dictator, seems totally immoral. Moreover, basing U.S. security on the threat to obliterate 180 million Russian people in retaliation - retaliation for what? the Russian people wouldn't be responsible for any missiles launched from their territory - is as immoral as a doctrine gets.

Defense Central will react quickly to the program presented in the President's speech.

For all those in the Bush Administration tuning in to our web site before the speech is chiseled in stone - or, at least, in software for the teleprompter - tell the President to check the "high option," and maybe even direct that it be made yet higher.

That's the best way to show how a conservative Republican can indeed become a transformational leader, of the type we haven't had since Theodore Roosevelt. That's the way to deprive Administration foes of their long, loud claim to be more progressive and moral. By a bold ballistic missile defense speech, the Bush team can take that mantle from them.
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