Democratic Underground

SDI is Nothing but Sci-Fi
May 5, 2001
by Morgan Moallemian

Not so long ago, in a galaxy not very far away, a young heir to an illegitimate throne leads his rag tag Republican army in a heroic rebellion against the diabolical forces of Lord Logic. In a 100-day struggle to unite, not divide, the long suffering tribes of the Military Industrial Complex, Rebel Leader George II, has marshalled what remains of his invisible political mandate in a final bid to defeat the evil Empire of Common Sense... welcome to Star Wars, Part II.

And so begins the sequel to Ronald Reagan's 1980's era deficit-feeding pet project - the so called "Star Wars" missile defense system. After two decades and billions of dollars in research, we are not much closer to realizing the promise of a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) - aka National Missile Defense - than we were during the Reagan administration.

Using a combination of satellite infrared tracking, laser and radar targeting systems, and ground based interceptors, the SDI system would, in theory, knock out incoming ICBM's (InterContinental Ballistic Missiles) high in the atmosphere before they have a chance to detonate on US soil. The latest Pentagon test, conducted in the summer of 2000, fired a lone Minuteman missile and attempted to destroy it high above the Pacific Ocean using the SDI system. The test failed to bring down a single missile in a controlled setting. Now consider a full scale ICMB attack against the United States. A thousand armed warheads hurling towards the US. Feeling safe yet?

On the surface, SDI seems to be an attractive and noble military scheme, since it is defensive in nature. Who can argue with the notion of destroying incoming nuclear missiles before they blast us into the stone age? And in the 80's, as the Cold War raged between the United States and the USSR, it was an even more attractive prospect. The Soviet economy was hardly equipped to withstand such a massive drain on their budget. But now that the Cold War is history, the SDI fantasy makes little sense.

The official White House spin in defense of SDI is to neutralize the threat from the so-called "rogue" nations such as China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc. The only problem is that none of these countries are even close to developing the technology required to build ICBM's - with the exception of China, who is thought to possess roughly 18 warheads, mounted on missiles that could possibly reach the coast of California. The only real nuclear threat in the post Cold War era remains Russia, who controls the vast arsenal of the former Soviet Union. In 1972, the Nixon administration signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union. This treaty is still valid today as a result of Russia agreeing to honor all arms treaty commitments signed by the Soviet Union. SDI is in violation of this treaty. But this doesn't seem to bother the current commander in chief, who pledged to bring "honor and integrity" to the White House. President Bush has proposed scrapping the 30 year old agreement to clear the way for a full scale development of his generous gift to the military industrial complex.

The SDI plan is flawed in so many ways, it is difficult to determine where to begin. With the current state of SDI technology, not even a single missile can be neutralized, let alone multiple warheads. The system fails to address the use of adaptive decoys, radar and infrared scrambling devices, and cold-shielding of warheads (making them impervious to accurate tracking). Throw in a reasonable margin of error and the shield quickly becomes a tattered umbrella.

SDI also completely fails to take into account alternate methods of delivery, such as ships, trucks, trains, cars and perhaps even suitcases in the near future - remember the recent Pentagon request to fund "battleground" low-yield nukes? How about a strategically placed warhead on a faultline? One has to beg the question - isn't it more likely for a technologically challenged "rogue" state to utilize one of these low-tech delivery systems rather than a multi-billion dollar ICMB system who's development is, in most cases, decades away?

SDI proponents also ignore the fact that large scale nuclear detonations ANYWHERE on the planet would cause catastrophic climatic consequences for ALL of the inhabitants of the world. Perhaps SDI has a contingency plan for global nuclear winter? No such luck. And if that wasn't enough, SDI in no way addresses the more likely threat of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

The cost for this exciting sci-fi thriller? It could reach as high as $1 TRILLION dollars by some estimates.

I seem to remember President Bush going on and on about the budget surplus "belonging to the people". Now, let's see, by my calculations... that would be $3,636 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Hmmm, not too bad. It sure beats the paltry amount I would save under the Bush tax cut. Or if you prefer, 50,000 new state of the art schools. Or National Universal Health Care FOUR TIMES OVER. Or updating the Country's aging infrastructure. Or providing state of the art mass transit in every major US city. Or providing every American child with a roof over their head and a computer on their lap. Or ridding our environment of all forms of industrial pollution, including arsenic and toxic waste. Or helping the desperate situations of the poorest countries in the world (including the aforementioned "rogue" states) with economic aid in return for pledges to not pursue the development of nuclear weapons. Or even colonizing Mars, so we have some place to go when that big asteroid (It's only a matter of time they say) hits mother earth. Or, we can simply blow it all on a defective system that benefits no one, except the defense contractors.

Mr. Bush, take the science fiction out of Washington and return it where it belongs. Hollywood.

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