Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 19, 2001

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) takes on Bush's decision to pull out of the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with the USSR in Wednesday's Washington Post.

I'm beginning to wonder if the commonly-accepted parallel that Republicans are conservative and Democrats are liberal. In this case at least, Democrats are holding onto an old, outdated worldview. The ABM treaty was with the USSR. There is no USSR anymore. The Cold War is over. Russia is now our friend. Why do we need to have an arms control treaty with a friend? We don't have any arms control treatys with Great Britain, France or Australia.

The fact that Democrats have been screaming about this louder than the Russians have makes you wonder.

Anyway, Biden makes some valid criticisms of the whole idea of an anti-ballistic missile defense, but they are all very shallow and not well thought out. (This would give creedence to the fact that Biden authored the piece himself instead of plagiarizing it.)

One of the lessons we should have learned from the devastating attack of Sept. 11 is that terrorists determined to do this nation harm can employ a wide variety of means, and that weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or even nuclear -- need not arrive on the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a return address. That's why the Joint Chiefs of Staff argue that an ICBM launch ranks last on the "Threat Spectrum," while terrorist attacks constitute the greatest potential threat to our national security.

Biden makes a couple of errors here, the first is the same one that the letter-writer below did. Just because it wouldn't have stopped Sept. 11, doesn't mean that it's not necessary.

Also, it may be true that right now a ballistic missile attack from a rogue state ranks last on the threat spectrum. (I'm skeptical about his word choice of argue. I think that his position is coloring this description.) So it's one of the least-likely methods of attack on the U.S. If you'd asked those same military men where commercial airliners flown into buildings would have been on the threat spectrum, I think it would have been even below an ICBM attack.

Biden, at least, doesn't argue that this might spur an arms race with Russia. Instead, he raises the specter that this might cause China to build up it's nuclear capability.

China currently possesses no more than two dozen ICBMs. Our own intelligence services estimate that moving forward with national missile defense could trigger a tenfold increase in China's expansion of its nuclear capability. And that doesn't take into account likely Chinese behavior if an arms race ensues, something many experts argue is inevitable when both India and Pakistan respond as expected by ratcheting up their nuclear programs.

Unfortunately for Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, China was building up its nuclear forces long before there was any talk of withdrawing from the ABM treaty, and long before Bush even took office.

Of course, forcing China to spend billions on a military build-up may not be a bad idea. The last time we forced a communist nation to spend billions and billions of dollars on attempting to match the United States' military build-up, the regime fell and freedom blossomed.

Biden's last point is, that by pulling out of the ABM treaty we've ticked off some of our allies. Well, this may or may not be true. If our allies were really worried about this I expect there'd be more screaming about it in the newspapers. I haven't seen any screaming (apart from some Democrats) and I read a lot of newspapers.


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December 2001



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