The Cold War brought about many changes in how Americans look at nuclear warfare. The most visible part of the cold war was the arms race. Mutually assured destruction was the philosophy that both nations had the power to destroy each other completely in the event of an attack.
The invention and perfection of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was the beginning of this philosophy. With this technology nations would be able to strike a rival country from a great distance. These unruly countries could attach various destructive warheads to these ICBM's. The warheads could deliver a nuclear, chemical, or biological payload. While the end of the Cold War has signaled a reduction in the likelihood of global conflict, the threat from foreign missiles has grown steadily as sophisticated missile technology becomes available on a wider scale. Ever since these weapons of mass destruction have existed, people have been attempting to create ways to prevent a war that would bring about a worldwide Armageddon however there are those who oppose this issue saying that the only way to prevent nuclear attack is to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction.
The question remains, should the Untied States push for a missile defense? Since he assumed office, the administration of President George W. Bush has made missile defense one of its top priorities, giving it prominence in policy, funding, and organization. To proponents, deploying a missile defense represents a prudent response to emerging threats. They believe that with this system in place no country will launch an attack against the U.S. Supporters of a national missile defense are urging President Bush to move quickly to deploy a system to protect the United States against potential ballistic missile attacks from Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and China. Most Republicans in congress consider a National Missile Defense system to be a top priority for the United States Government.
Other reasons for this defense system are current actions made by foreign countries. In May of 1998 India and Pakistan ran underground nuclear weapons tests. North Korea tested a long range ICBM over Japan, which can be used to carry nuclear warheads.
The initial blueprint for SDI included both ground and space based interceptors that would fire lasers to hit a hostile missile and destroy its offensive capability. As envisioned since 1996 the NMD consists of three main elements infrared early warning satellites, ground based radars to precisely track warheads and decoys from great distances, and multistage rocket powered homing missiles.
Current BMDO research involves three separate areas of research and development. The areas include a Theater Missile Defense, a National Missile Defense, and development of supportive technology to maintain and operate those systems.
This leaves the opposition asking, should the United States risk foreign affairs to create a National Missile Defense system? Opponents to a National Missile Defense foresee that this system will make Americans less safe. They believe it will rekindle the Nuclear Arms race. Also it will force Russia and China to increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States, throwing away 30 years of progress in controlling and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world.
This program will be very expensive to develop and deploy. Much of the opposition to missile defense comes from this huge expense. Any missile defense that would have any real chance of actually working would certainly cost hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps trillions. The current MDA budget for 2003 is 8 billion dollars. Every year this budget continues to increase. Should the Government spend this money on ways to control worldwide nuclear arms?
Because of the immense destructiveness of nuclear weapons, missile defense would make virtually no difference in the outcome of an attack by several hundred missiles. Suppose the U.S. were attacked with 500 nuclear missiles by a major nuclear power, and the missile defense system shot down 90 percent of incoming missiles. That would mean 50 missiles would get through, and the United States as we know it would be totally destroyed.
In conclusion there will always be debate on a national missile defense program. Should the United States deploy this system or shouldn't they? Both sides are extremely set on there ideas on this program. National Missile Defense will likely remain a prominent and sharply polarized political issue in coming years.