Enemy missile defense has always been an argumentative subject and spans over six decades. The first defense plan to be somewhat successful was President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Some critics believe that a defense plan has hurt the United States more than it has benefited it. Due to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, improvements have been made in the National Missile Defense, the Strategic Defense Initiative itself, and the Ballistic Missile Defense. A national defense program was thought of after the Nazis sent hundreds of V-2 rockets during the end of World War II (Garamone 78).
President Nixon came up with a National Missile Defense Program, but many critics thought this was useless, because no nation had the capability of delivering a ballistic missile to the United States (Anderson 1). A well-functioning system was well out of reach, and large costs for its development were one factor in stopping the program from taking affect (Anderson 3). Only the United States allies had the capabilities, and all of the United States’ allies were against a missile defense program (Anderson 1).
Something needed to be done to ensure the safety of the United States citizens. It was on May 26, 1972 that the United States and the Soviets signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (Anderson 2; “History” 1). The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the ABM Treaty, began two years after Congress, in 1969, introduced the first round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, or otherwise known as SALT (“History” 1). This treaty limited the United States and the Soviet Union to two missile defense sites with no more than one hundred ground-based interceptors (Kimball 2).
It was then modified in 1974; the modification reduced the number of sites to where both countries could deploy only one interceptor each (“History” 1). This treaty prohibited any development, testing, or deployment of any air, space, sea, or mobile land-based anti-ballistic missile systems. It also prohibited any deployments of radars capable of early warning of ballistic missile attacks anywhere other than on their own territory (Kimball 1-2). Even though these were prohibited, the treat did permit theater missile defense of any type to protect against any expecting short or medium range missiles.
It was also very important that the treaty allowed research, laboratory, and fixed land-based testing for both countries (Kimball 2). The ABM Treaty, however, did not fit the future plans for the United States. On December 13, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the ABM Treaty; his reasoning was that “it prevented United States development of defenses against possible terrorist or ‘rougue-state’ ballistic missile attacks” (Kimball 1). On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan introduced a new type of missile defense which he named the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Milestones” 1).
He claimed: the heart of the Strategic Defense program was a plan to develop space-based missile defense program that could protect the country from a large-scale nuclear attack. (“Milestones” 1) This program was based on futuristic technology that had not yet been developed except in science fiction. Due to all of that, critics nicknamed it “Star Wars” after the movie (Anderson 2). The defense program was brought about for many reasons; it was used to silence domestic critics concern about the level of defense spending.
The Strategic Defense Initiative was supposed to eliminate the threat of a nuclear attack. Once it was deployed, it was said to benefit everyone; therefore, it could be portrayed as a peace initiative. Reagan was unyielding against the critics, and he knew that the goal of the defense program should eliminate a need for nuclear weapons, which he thought were “fundamentally immoral” (“Milestones” 1). There was criticism from many United States citizens during this time about the superfluous defense program.
The research and development of the Strategic Defense Initiative came with a high price tag. The amount of funding required for the Strategic Defense Initiative made people think a large cut in funding from the education and health care programs was imminent; however, there did not seem to be any cuts to those programs to fund the Strategic Defense Initiative. People wondered why the government was willing to spend so much money on a system that might never work, and there was no way to test the system without putting the people in danger of n attack (“Milestones” 1). The idea of the United States protecting against a nuclear attack made the citizens believe in the theory of deterrence, which would be seen as a threat of retaliation (“Milestones” 2). If an enemy feared the United States was on the verge of a defense system, then the other country might feel forced to attack before the defense system could be accomplished (“Milestones” 2). Believing that an attack was more likely resulted in insecure thoughts throughout the United States.
The United States already had an advantage in technology and financial resources; so, some believe that a missile defense program would be “… suicidal, as massive retribution would be almost guaranteed” (Anderson 2). With events such as 9/11, a missile defense program is powerless. If foreign countries would happen to send ballistic missiles to the United States, the offensive country would be counterattacked with the power of the American Military, therefore, hurting their home country as well (Anderson 2). In a final attempt of protecting from enemy missiles, President George W.
Bush made a key promise in his 2000 campaign for a missile defense program. In December 2001, he announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, so that he could pursue missile defense systems. He then publicized that the first interceptors of his Ballistic Missile Defense program were going to be deployed in 2004 (King 1; Lord 2). The initial system, based at Fort Greeley, Alaska, would consist of ground-based interceptor missiles designed to destroy any long-range missile fired at the United States or a United States ally (King 1).
Bush’s missile defense did not come without a steep price tag; space based systems would raise technical risks as well as vulnerabilities, and they would need at least twenty satellites for maximum protection, costing at least ten billion dollars (Lord 6). Current spending for the Ballistic Missile Defense’s research and development costs about nine billion dollars per year (Lord 5). With a high price tag, many other flaws were bound to be pointed out of the Ballistic Missile Defense. Some affected groups, such as the United States military, saw it as a competitor for money and expenses or nuclear forces. It has been said by anonymous critics that the missile defense systems from the 1980’s to now have been driven by corrupt leaders and factors of the economy. Some critical citizens argued that the lack of a stable Ballistic Missile Defense program in the military and in industry had resulted in a history of unreliable decision-making (Lord 6). The United States’ European allies were thinking about a defense system of their own. Agreement between the European governments on a system was beginning to spread, but it was still a touchy subject and needed to be looked into further.
Eventually, European countries invested three and a half billion dollars in an anti-tactical air ballistic missile defense (Lord 8). Advancement in defense technology and the attitude of always having to stay one step ahead of potential threats was vital, and defense in space was the next step for the United States. There was no American policy on militarizing space, so the United States thought that by building a space-based program, they could encourage other nations to get started with a missile defense program.
Adversaries, or opponents, could use this offer to their advantage; other nations could strategize a plan by attacking the United States space systems, but any nation has yet to have tried. Today, the United States military is more dependent on space programs than any other country (Lord 9). Throughout history, the United States has made much advancement in enemy missile defense technology. It all started when President Nixon introduced his amateur defense plan after thinking it would help the United States’ security and financial tactics.
Secondly, President Reagan established the Strategic Defense Initiative; this was an improvement from Nixon’s plan, but still met its fate due to the basis on futuristic technology. Finally, President Bush brought forth the Ballistic Missile Defense in 2001 to ensure the safety of citizens. After years of improvement in technology, funding strategies, and security measures, enemy missile defense is now possible to protect the people of the United States of America.