Star Wars II: Here We Go Again

Star Wars II: Here We Go Again

Research assistance provided by the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.


If you stopped worrying about the bomb when the cold war ended, you were probably surprised to learn that two of the hot-button issues of the eighties–arms control and missile defense–will top the agenda at the Clinton/Putin summit on June 4-5. A central issue in Moscow will be how to reconcile Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for deep cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals with the Clinton Administration’s fixation on developing a National Missile Defense (NMD) system.

Clinton has pledged to make a deployment decision this fall, after the Pentagon and the White House analyze the results of the next “hit to kill” test of the missile defense system, slated for late June or early July. The system failed its most recent test, conducted in January, while an allegedly successful test conducted last October was made possible only by the fact that the kill vehicle was guided to the right spot by a large, easy-to-find decoy balloon.

The Clinton/Gore proposal is a far cry from Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars scheme, which was designed to fend off thousands of Soviet warheads at a cost estimated by former Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire at up to $1 trillion. In contrast, this missile defense plan is meant to deal with a few dozen incoming warheads launched by a “rogue state” like North Korea, at a projected cost of $60 billion. But despite the NMD’s seemingly more modest goals, it is every bit as dangerous and misguided as the Reagan scheme, threatening to unravel thirty years of arms-control agreements and heighten the danger of nuclear war.

NMD’s surprising political revival is rooted in the three Cs of contemporary US politics: conservative ideology, Clintonian cowardice and corporate influence. These short-term pressures are in turn reinforced by an ambitious long-range military objective: the misguided quest for a state of absolute military superiority.

The strongest push for missile defense has come from Reaganite true believers in conservative think tanks, especially the small but highly effective Center for Security Policy. On Capitol Hill, the NMD lobby is spearheaded by new-look conservatives like Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who led last fall’s successful Republican effort to defeat the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Fresh from that victory, the NMD lobby is now seeking to destroy the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty as the next target in its campaign to promote “peace through strength rather than peace through paper,” as Kyl put it in a recent speech.

The right-wing crusade for missile defense has received aid and comfort from Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who have decided that looking “tough” on defense is more important than protecting the world from weapons of mass destruction. Support has also come from the lumbering behemoths of the military-industrial complex: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing, which are desperately seeking a new infusion of taxpayer funds to help them recover from a string of technical failures and management fiascos that have cut their stock prices and drastically reduced their profit margins.

NMD’s military boosters see the system primarily as a way to enhance the offensive capabilities of US forces, not as a defensive measure. In its revealing “Vision for 2020” report, the US Space Command–a unified military command that coordinates the space activities and assets of the Army, Navy and Air Force–sings the praises of outer space as the ideal platform for projecting US military dominance “across the full spectrum of conflict.” Pentagon hard-liners have a more immediate military goal: using NMD as a shield to protect US forces in interventions against states like North Korea (whose missile development effort, it is worth noting, has been on hold for almost two years).

A growing number of moderate-to-conservative Democrats are also supportive of a limited NMD system. Whether or not missile defense is an effective response to alleged threats, it seems to offer a sense of security to some members of Congress, who lack the expertise and inclination to question the fevered threat projections of the US military and intelligence establishments.

While at least some of the motives of NMD advocates may be understandable, they are also disastrously misguided: Even Clinton and Gore’s “limited” system is unnecessary, unworkable and unaffordable. The mere pursuit of an NMD system could pose the most serious threat to international peace and stability since the height of the cold war. Russian President Putin has emphatically stated that any US move to withdraw from the ABM treaty will lead Moscow to treat all existing US/Russian arms agreements as null and void. And China’s chief arms negotiator, Sha Zukang, has warned that if Washington goes ahead with an NMD deployment designed to intercept “tens of warheads”–a figure suspiciously close to the eighteen to twenty single-warhead ballistic missiles that represent China’s entire nuclear deterrent capability–Beijing will not “sit on its hands.”

In short, the official Clinton/Gore Administration position on NMD is that we should jeopardize the best chance in a generation to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals in order to preserve the option to deploy a costly, technically dubious scheme designed to defend against a Third World missile threat that does not currently exist and may not ever materialize. To understand how we got into this mess, we need to take a look at the genesis, “death” and resurrection of Reagan’s Star Wars dream.

A Smile and a Shoeshine

When Reagan gave his March 1983 Star Wars speech, in which he pledged to launch a program designed to render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” he was acting primarily on the advice of Edward Teller, the infamous “father of the H-bomb.” In closed-door meetings organized by the conservative businessmen in Reagan’s kitchen Cabinet, Teller sold Reagan on a new nuclear doctrine of “assured survival” based on the alleged technical wonders of his latest brainchild, the X-ray laser. As New York Times science writer William Broad pointed out in his 1992 book, Teller’s War, the X-ray laser was largely a figment of Teller’s imagination, composed of scientific speculation, wishful thinking and outright deception. But Reagan was buying into the concept of missile defense, not the details, so he forged ahead unaware of these inconvenient facts, his enthusiasm reinforced by his desire to counter the nuclear freeze movement.

But, as Frances FitzGerald shows in her new book, Way Out There in the Blue (the title derives from Arthur Miller’s line in Death of a Salesman in which he describes Willy Loman as “a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine”), Reagan’s Star Wars proposal was more than just a political con game; it was also a potent symbol that served radically different purposes for the different factions within his Administration. For hard-liners like Caspar Weinberger, Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney–a Perle protégé who went on to found his own pro-Star Wars think tank, the Center for Security Policy–Reagan’s missile defense plan offered a chance to promote their two main goals: sustaining the Reagan military buildup and thwarting progress on US/Soviet arms control. For White House political strategists, the Star Wars plan was a way to boost Reagan’s flagging popularity ratings, which had plummeted in the face of the deepest recession since the thirties and a growing fear that the President’s aggressive anti-Soviet stance was moving the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation.

The most constructive response to the Star Wars speech within Reagan’s inner circle came from his Secretary of State, George Shultz. Rather than trying to convince Reagan of the manifold flaws in his pet project, Shultz treated the Star Wars speech as an opportunity to press Reagan to engage in his first serious discussions with Soviet leaders on nuclear weapons issues. Shultz found an unlikely ally in Paul Nitze, the old cold warrior who was appointed as a special envoy to the US/Russian nuclear talks at Shultz’s request. Nitze honed in on the fatal flaw that has plagued all missile defense schemes to date, which is that it is much cheaper to overwhelm a defensive system with additional warheads or decoys than it is to expand the defensive capability to meet these new threats. As a result, Shultz and Nitze were able to prevail over the Weinberger/Perle faction and persuade Reagan to endorse historic agreements to eliminate medium-range nuclear weapons from Europe and implement substantial cuts in long-range weapons under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Star Wars was a security blanket that allowed Reagan to engage in serious negotiations with the “evil empire” without being perceived as some sort of weak-kneed liberal arms controller among the conservatives who formed his core constituency.

When George Bush took office in January 1989, Reagan’s Star Wars fantasy was rapidly overtaken by the reality of sharp reductions in the US and Soviet nuclear forces. Both sides ratified the START I arms reduction pact and followed up with a START II deal that called for cutting US and Soviet strategic arsenals to one-third their Reagan-era levels. On a broader front, the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 made spending billions on a high-tech scheme to defend against Soviet missiles seem irrelevant and absurd. Despite the decline of the Soviet “threat,” however, the Bush Administration and Congress continued to cough up $3-$4 billion per year for missile defense. The project’s new focus was protection against an accidental nuclear attack.

Soon yet another rationale appeared in the form of the “rogue state” strategy, developed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, and based on the notion that the United States should be prepared to fight two heavily armed regional powers like Iraq and North Korea simultaneously. In the 1991 Gulf War Saddam Hussein came to personify the rogue-state threat; Iraqi missile attacks on Tel Aviv and a devastating direct hit on a US military barracks in Saudi Arabia prompted calls for more effective defenses against medium-range ballistic missiles.

But even that was not enough to sustain enthusiasm for a major new program. A few months after Clinton took office in January 1993, Defense Secretary Les Aspin proclaimed the Star Wars program dead (though the Pentagon continued to spend $3-$4 billion per year on missile defense research).

Enter Newt

Newt Gingrich is gone from the political scene, but the most dangerous plank of his 1994 Contract With America remains: the section that calls for “requiring the Defense Department to deploy antiballistic missile systems capable of defending the United States against ballistic missile attacks.” That plan was added to the contract by Gingrich and his fellow Republican co-author Dick Armey at the urging of Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy.

Efforts to turn the contract’s rhetoric into viable legislation proved unsuccessful in the short run, but in mid-1996 the Clinton Administration decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by offering a missile defense compromise known as the “3+3” plan–three years of research and testing followed by a three-year crash program to deploy a system–if the President decided it was necessary, feasible and affordable. The “3+3” gambit allowed Clinton to push off a politically controversial decision on missile defense until a later date that fell well past the 1996 presidential election. Unfortunately for Al Gore, that “later date” is now smack in the middle of his second run for the White House. As John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists put it, “This is a political decision driven by the need to defend Al Gore from Republicans rather than defend America against missiles.”

While Clinton was yielding ground, Capitol Hill Republicans were regrouping for their next offensive–one result of which was an amendment in the fiscal year 1997 defense authorization bill calling for the establishment of a blue-ribbon panel to “assess the nature and magnitude of existing and emerging ballistic missile threats to the United States.” The Republicans wanted their new commission to be viewed as an authoritative and objective body, not just a partisan project. Bearing that in mind, House Speaker Gingrich and Senate majority leader Trent Lott, who were empowered to nominate the majority of the panel’s members, chose former Ford Administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to head the commission, in the hopes that they could capitalize on his reputation as a moderate Republican with pragmatic views on military matters. Rumsfeld proved worthy of Gingrich’s and Lott’s confidence when he hammered out a unanimous final report with the appropriate aura of bipartisanship, complete with signatures from Democratic appointees such as former Carter Administration arms-control official Barry Blechman of the Henry L. Stimson Center and eminent physicist and longtime missile defense critic Richard Garwin. Just two weeks after the report came out, Garwin placed an Op-Ed in the New York Times denouncing the misuse of the report by missile defense boosters, asserting, “I am alarmed that some have interpreted our findings as providing support for a new national defense system.”

The Rumsfeld Commission report was unveiled in July 1998 amid hysterical cries from Gingrich that it was the “most important warning about our national security system since the end of the cold war.” Hysteria aside, the report’s primary finding was that given enough foreign help, a rogue state like North Korea could acquire a missile capable of reaching the United States within five years of making a decision to do so–one-third to one-half the warning time projected in the CIA’s official estimates. The Star Wars lobby finally got what it needed: an official, government-approved statement that could be interpreted as endorsing its own exaggerated view of the Third World missile threat. While the Rumsfeld report drew heavy editorial fire in papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Wall Street Journal applauded it as a long-overdue clarion call for missile defense, and Washington’s newspaper of record, the Post, published a measured response that endorsed the panel’s findings as “useful and plausible.”

Inside the Missile Defense Lobby

Upon reflection, it is clear that the Rumsfeld report’s Republican backers had always intended to use the panel as a tool to advance their pro-missile defense agenda. All the report actually says is that if a country like North Korea gets major foreign assistance–including the extremely unlikely possibility that a country like China would simply give Pyongyang a fully operational ballistic missile–it will achieve the capability to hit the United States much more quickly than if it had to build the missile without outside help. As Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace demonstrated in Congressional testimony delivered this past February, the Rumsfeld Commission’s conservative backers have used the report as a vehicle for changing the intelligence community’s traditional means of assessing the ballistic missile threat, from one that attempts to predict the likely pace of missile proliferation in a given nation in the light of political, economic and military factors, to a “worst-case scenario” approach that asks how quickly a given nation could achieve a threatening missile capability if it had no economic or political impediments. As Cirincione also demonstrated, the “sky is falling” approach has been used to obscure the underlying reality that the ballistic missile threat to the United States has decreased in the last decade, not increased.

Just as the Rumsfeld Commission turned out to be less objective than it first appeared to be, so did its chairman. Far from being a moderate, Donald Rumsfeld is a card-carrying member of the missile defense lobby. Prior to his appointment to head the commission that bears his name, he was publicly singled out as a special friend in the annual report of the pro-Star Wars think tank, the Center for Security Policy. As a further sign of his commitment to the missile defense cause, Rumsfeld has also given money to Frank Gaffney’s group. If Gaffney’s organization were just an abstract “study group,” that would be one thing. But it is a highly partisan advocacy organization that serves as the de facto nerve center of the NMD lobby.

Gaffney’s center, which now has an annual budget of $1.2 million, was started in 1988 with support from New Right funders like Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors. Since that time, Gaffney has turned it into a sort of working executive committee for the missile defense lobby. The center’s advisory board includes representatives of larger conservative organizations, including Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation; William Bennett, co-director of Empower America; and Henry Cooper of High Frontier, the original Star Wars think tank, which was launched during the early years of the Reagan Administration. Other CSP advisory board members include Charles Kupperman and Bruce Jackson, who serve as vice president for Washington operations and director of planning and analysis, respectively, at Lockheed Martin; key members of Congress like Republicans Curt Weldon, Christopher Cox and Jon Kyl; and a who’s who of Reagan-era Star Warriors like Edward Teller and former Reagan science adviser George Keyworth.

Unlike most think tanks concerned with military issues, the Center for Security Policy receives a substantial portion of its funding from weapons manufacturers. Three out of the top four missile defense contractors–Boeing, Lockheed Martin and TRW–are all major corporate contributors to CSP, which has received more than $2 million in corporate donations since its founding, accounting for roughly one-quarter of its total budget.

Rumsfeld’s link to CSP is not his only affiliation with the Star Wars lobby. He’s also on the board of Empower America, which ran deceptive ads against anti-NMD Senator Harry Reid of Nevada in the run-up to the November 1998 elections. In recognition of his service to the missile defense lobby, in October 1998–just three months after his “objective” assessment of the missile threat was released–CSP awarded Rumsfeld its “Keeper of the Flame” award for 1998 at a gala dinner attended by several hundred Star Wars boosters. In accepting the award, Rumsfeld joined the company of Reagan, Gingrich and several Congressional NMD boosters.

NMD Resurgent: Fast Track to Oblivion?

In a reprise of the political two-step that preceded the 1996 presidential elections (Republicans lead, Clintonites follow), the Clinton Administration moved closer to the Republican position on missile defense with a January 1999 announcement that the President would seek a six-year, $112 billion increase in Pentagon spending. The proposal included $6.6 billion in new funding for procurement of missile defense equipment before 2005, the new target date for NMD deployment established by Defense Secretary William Cohen.

Clinton’s decision to accelerate NMD funding was propelled in part by the furor caused by North Korea’s August 1998 test of a two-stage ballistic missile, but the trump card in the Republican-led effort to jack up both overall military spending and NMD “deployment readiness” funding was the backlash from the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Long before the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton decided that throwing money at the Pentagon was the best way to shore up his credentials as Commander in Chief and divert attention from allegations that he had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War. By the fall of 1998, the combination of a growing federal budget surplus and the President’s perceived political weakness resulting from the Lewinsky matter emboldened Congressional Republicans and Clinton’s own Joint Chiefs of Staff to press him for billions of dollars in additional military funds.

In mid-September, the Joint Chiefs invited the President to a closed-door briefing where they read Clinton their wish lists on everything from boosting military pay and weapons procurement to applying fresh coats of paint to underutilized military bases. Within a week’s time Clinton sent the Chiefs a letter pledging a Pentagon budget increase that would insure that “the men and women of our armed forces will have the resources they need to do their jobs.” In October, Congressional Republicans did the Joint Chiefs one better, loading up Clinton’s $1 billion Pentagon supplemental appropriations bill aimed at addressing the military’s newfound “readiness crisis” with what analyst John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World has described as “a $9 billion grab bag of pet projects” that included an additional $1 billion for National Missile Defense.

Clinton’s apparent embrace of NMD prompted Helle Bering of the conservative Washington Times to complain bitterly that “Clinton has appropriated yet another set of Republican issues.” In mid-January Cohen took the Administration’s NMD commitment one step further when he made the highly provocative statement that if the United States deemed it necessary to withdraw from the ABM treaty in order to field an effective defense against rogue-state missiles, it would do so regardless of Russia’s reaction.

Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, NMD advocates were rallying around Senator Thad Cochran’s National Missile Defense Act. In March 1999, aided by the votes of moderate and conservative Democrats who had been persuaded in part by the Rumsfeld Commission’s official (albeit misleading) depiction of the North Korean missile threat, the House and Senate both passed bills calling for the deployment of a national missile defense system “as soon as it is technologically feasible.”

Clinton signed the bill into law that July. Although his signing message made it clear that the Administration will consider economic, technical and arms-control factors before deciding whether to deploy an NMD system, Star Wars boosters in Congress have been portraying the legislation as a firm national commitment come hell or high water.

The NMD Deception

From its inception in the Reagan White House to its resurrection in the Clinton era, the marketing of missile defense has been accompanied at every step by exaggerated technical claims, misleading cost estimates and outright lies. If experience is any guide, the missile defense test scheduled for late June or early July will almost certainly be rigged. (In 1984, in an instance of fraud that only came to light nine years later, a test of Lockheed’s Homing Overlay Experiment was rigged by placing a beacon in the target missile so that it could literally signal its location to the interceptor missile.)

But even if the next test misfires, the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) has already put forward a rationale that Clinton could use to give the green light for deployment, namely that two more “hit to kill” tests could be squeezed in between now and next spring, when construction will begin on the critical NMD radar site in Shemya, Alaska, if Clinton decides to go full speed ahead on deployment. Even one successful “hit” in any of these next three tests–which will occur before BMDO contractors actually break ground on the Alaska radar project but after the Administration has committed funds to long-lead-time materials and services that will be needed to meet the starting date for construction–will be offered as proof of the dubious proposition that the system will work under real-world conditions.

Unfortunately, fraudulent testing of missile defense components is far from ancient history. Nira Schwartz, a computer software expert who worked on tests of the NMD interceptor for TRW, filed a civil suit against the company in April 1996 charging that it forced her to misreport her findings on the critical question of whether the interceptor missile can tell the difference between a real warhead and a decoy. The documents in the case were unsealed earlier this year and featured in a March 7 front-page New York Times story. The company has denied Schwartz’s allegations, but another engineer who worked on the tests has backed her up.

Since Schwartz’s claims became public earlier this year, MIT missile defense expert Theodore Postol has conducted an independent analysis of the data generated by the test in question, and he has concluded that the results raise fundamental questions about the ability of any currently available technology to discriminate between warheads and decoys. Since this capability is essential for even a modest NMD system to have any chance of intercepting a handful of incoming warheads, TRW and the Pentagon have gone to great lengths to cover up this embarrassing fact. When Postol sent a letter to the White House outlining his findings, the Pentagon responded by ruling that the contents of Postol’s letter should be classified on the grounds that they contained top-secret material. On May 25 the BMDO released a cursory letter charging that Postol’s findings were “incomplete” and his conclusions “wrong” because “Dr. Postol is not considering all the capabilities of our system of systems.” Postol fired back the same day at a DC press conference organized by the Global Research/Action Center on the Environment, presenting his technical critique of the NMD system in detail and slamming the Administration for “foot-dragging and playing politics with an important decision that directly affects the security of the nation” rather than appointing an impartial panel to investigate seriously his charges of fraud in the test program.

In addition to the evidence of outright fraud, the NMD program has recently been subjected to a flurry of questions from critics within the Pentagon and the US intelligence community. On May 19, a few days after Postol sent his letter to the White House, the Los Angeles Times published an interview with a high-level US intelligence official who flatly contradicted the Clinton Administration’s contention that China has nothing to fear from a limited US NMD system. The official also noted that the North Korean and Iranian missile threats have not been moving along as rapidly as expected, and he asserted that the concept of the “rogue state” was in itself an impediment to objective analysis of the missile threat.

Meanwhile, a blue-ribbon panel chaired by former Reagan Administration Secretary of the Air Force Gen. Larry Welch has issued two scathing critiques of NMD program management, the first of which pointed out that the NMD system was on a far tighter testing schedule than any recent weapons development program of comparable scale. It went on to charge that the program was on a headlong “rush to failure.” The second Welch report, released this past November, strongly encouraged the Administration to push back its NMD deployment decision to avoid “regressing to a very high risk schedule.” In February a report by Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, charged that the Pentagon was facing heavy pressure to “meet an artificial decision point in the development process.”

There is one final element distorting the NMD testing program: corporate greed. The major corporate players in the NMD testing program–Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon–all have serious and direct conflicts of interest, since the results of the tests they are helping to carry out will determine whether they start reaping multibillion-dollar missile defense contracts over the next few years. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon has tried to wave off charges of fraud involving TRW’s NMD “hit to kill” vehicle by arguing that TRW’s version has not been chosen for inclusion in the final NMD system. However, Bacon fails to mention that Boeing, which is now in charge of overall systems integration for the entire NMD project, designed the interceptor vehicle that has been the subject of the fraud allegations. Whether Boeing colluded with TRW’s manipulation of test results or merely overlooked them, it doesn’t bode well for its role as the principal monitoring agent for subcontractors. The fox is guarding the chicken coop: If Boeing is able to orchestrate a series of seemingly credible tests, it stands to make billions of dollars in production contracts for decades to come. This inherent conflict of interest at the heart of the NMD testing program is one of the factors that have led missile defense experts at MIT and the Union of Concerned Scientists to call for the appointment of an independent panel to assess the feasibility of missile defense before the President makes a deployment decision.

Boeing is not the only company with an interest in helping the Pentagon put the best face on the NMD program. Lockheed Martin, whose “legacy” company, Lockheed Aircraft, was in charge of the 1984 Homing Overlay Experiment, which was later exposed as fraudulent, brags in a recent edition of its company newsletter, Lockheed Martin Today, that it produces the rockets used to propel both the mock warhead and the “kill vehicle” involved in NMD “hit to kill” tests. This is certainly a convenient setup if the company and the BMDO are thinking of stacking the deck on the next intercept test to insure a successful result.

Of the four largest NMD contractors (the others are Boeing, Raytheon and TRW), Lockheed Martin has the most to gain. If US/Russian arms-reduction talks are stymied by US stubbornness on NMD, Lockheed Martin will be able to sustain its key nuclear weapons programs. And if NMD deployment moves forward, Lockheed Martin will receive billions in additional funding for production of numerous components and subcomponents of the national missile defense system.

Given what’s at stake, the companies have decided to leave nothing to chance. Since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in January 1995, weapons industry PACs have given twice as much to Republican Congressional candidates as they have to Democrats, a far higher margin than prevailed when the Democrats ruled Capitol Hill, when they received about 55 percent of defense industry PAC funds, compared with 45 percent for Republicans. Hard-line Star Warriors have gotten the bulk of this industry largesse. A World Policy Institute analysis of two recent pro-Star Wars letters to President Clinton–one from twenty-five senators organized by Jesse Helms stating that they would kill any arms-control deal with the Russians that attempted to put any limits on the scope of future NMD deployments, the other from thirty-one Republican senators pushing the Center for Security Policy’s pet project, a sea-based missile defense system–reveals that the signatories of these pro-Star Wars missives have received a total of nearly $2 million in PAC contributions from missile defense contractors in this election cycle.

Lockheed Martin has not neglected the presidential candidates. On the Republican side, Lockheed Martin vice president Bruce Jackson, who served as chairman of the US Committee to Expand NATO, was overheard by one of the authors at an industry gathering last year bragging about how the industry’s troubles will be over if George W. Bush is elected, since Jackson would be personally writing the defense plank of the Republican platform. And Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz, who has longstanding ties to Lockheed Martin dating from when Lockheed absorbed Loral’s defense unit in 1996, was the top individual donor of soft money to the Democratic Party in the 1996 presidential cycle; Loral employees gave $601,000 to Democratic Party committees. Schwartz has nearly doubled that amount in the run-up to the November 2000 elections, with $1.1 million in soft-money contributions to Democratic committees to date. He was briefly in the spotlight last year when he was accused of lobbying the Clinton Administration to ease the standards for the export of satellite technology to China.

NMD and Beyond

The continued pursuit of NMD will have far-reaching consequences for the future of arms control and the goal of nuclear abolition. It will mean a false sense of security for Americans and an increased threat of nuclear war for the world.

Instead of going down that road, the US government should focus its energy and resources on preventive measures. When Clinton meets with Putin on June 4, he could pledge to get US/Russian nuclear reductions back on track through steps that include seeking increased funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program–which has helped finance the destruction of thousands of Russian nuclear warheads and weapons facilities–and working toward continued reductions in US and Russian nuclear forces under START agreements. Clinton could also pledge to work for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was defeated last fall by the Senate despite overwhelming public support. Above all, Clinton could assure Russia that the United States has no intention of withdrawing from the ABM treaty. That would put Al Gore in a much stronger position to criticize George W. Bush’s misleading proposal to pursue unilateral cuts in US nuclear forces in combination with an ambitious NMD plan that would usher in an era of instability by demolishing what’s left of the global nuclear arms-control regime.

The newly resurgent peace and arms-control movement, led by organizations like Peace Action, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Power in Space, and the Fourth Freedom Forum, is trying to generate a large-enough outcry for “arms reductions, not missile defense” over this summer to beat back missile defense hysteria. But stopping NMD is just one step toward a sane nuclear policy; ultimately only the abolition of all nuclear weapons can provide the safety and security that Reagan and his latter-day disciples have pledged to provide through the false promise of missile defense.

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