Bush goes to Europe: The president travels to Europe to talk NATO,
missile defense and global warming.
The World Ahead: The international challenges faced by the Bush team.
Apparently it is true. If at first you don't succeed, you should try, try again. After some very public failures, the Pentagon successfully shot down a missile this month, using a controversial defense technology.
On July 14, military officials in California launched a long-range missile carrying a warhead and a large decoy balloon into outer space.
Twenty minutes after the missile and decoy were fired, military brass on the Marshall Island, 4,800 miles away from California, shot an inceptor towards the missile.
minutes after that -- and 144 miles above the earth -- the inceptor
collided with the missile, destroying both.
Although military leaders are cheering the inceptor "hit," missile defense advocates acknowledge much more work is needed before such a system is ready.
This month's test was less complex than previous ones. In prior tests, radar transmitter was placed in the decoy balloon and missile warhead. The purpose was to make the inceptor, or "kill vehicle" as it's called, tell the difference between a live bomb and a fake during a real attack.
In this month's test only the warhead had radar. Moreover, the decoy balloon was ten times brighter than the warhead missile. Inceptors are programmed to hit darker objects.
Critics say while the test showed the ability to guide inceptors, the system still cannot tell a balloon from a bomb.
Another, more complex anti-missile test is scheduled for October.
What's the score?
If this were sports, the Pentagon would be batting .500. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said the Pentagon will continue their efforts, conducting 20 more missile tests over the next five years.
The Pentagon is asking Congress for $8 billion more in missile defense funding for next year. Approximately half the increase would go for testing, which costs an estimated $100 million a try.
Earlier this month, Pentagon officials laid out plans for a complex system capable of launch interceptors from the air, sea and space.
Even before the test, Secretary Rumsfeld announced the U.S. would begin construction of a test site in Alaska in August. The site is expected finished by 2004.
The inceptor success and the Alaska test site are both parts of the president's plan for a broad national shield to defend the U.S. from missile attack.
Selling it to Russia
There is one catch -- the whole missile defense system is illegal under a treaty signed by the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union in the 1960s.
Only days after the test, the Russian president signed a pact with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, vowing to create a "new international order" and reaffirming their opposition to the missile shield.
When President Bush traveled to Europe in July, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting, the second for both presidents, focused on the U.S. plan to build the shield.
Earlier, President Putin warned that a missile shield would spark a new arms race between the U.S., Russia and China. But in late July, he agreed to discuss a defensive strategy for the U.S. and its allies that may include a some kind of shield.
Rice, the national security adviser, will work out the schedule for
U.S.-Russia missile talks. But she has said the U.S. will proceed
with the shield whether the Russians agree to it or not.
Mr. Bush wants to build the missile shield because he believes the U.S. is vulnerable to missile attacks from "rogue" nations like North Korea or Iraq.
In theory, missile defense would work like a giant umbrella, protecting the U.S. from incoming missiles. Using sophisticated radar systems and inceptor missiles, the system would detect and destroy incoming missiles before they hit.
Unfortunately, most of the preliminary tests failed. Some scientists describe the system as "trying to hit a bullet with another bullet." In a nutshell, not easy.
A Treaty with Russia
In 1972, U.S. President Nixon and Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev signed a document called the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Basically, the two nations (who were then enemies) promised not to build anti-missile systems and outlaws either nation from building missile defense shields covering more than one territory. In other words, the U.S. has already promised not to do exactly what the president wants.
President Bush says the treaty is outmoded and a relic of the Cold War. Others say the treaty is no longer "real" because the Soviet Union no longer exists.
In the 1970s the U.S. deployed a shield over missile fields in North Dakota but later shut it down to comply with the treaty.
The treaty assumptions are simple; if both sides are vulnerable to nuclear attacks than nobody will be the first to strike. If one side is protected by a shield, there is nothing to stop them from attacking first.
A whole bunch of questions
The Russians aren't the only ones with reservations about missile defense. Even the leaders of Europe -- who would theoretically be protected by the shield -- have doubts.
"It's obvious that anyone who wanted to attack another country and was confronted with this defense shield...would have a natural reaction to send more missiles," said French President Chirac. "This is a fantastic invitation to proliferate."
Instead, some leaders, like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, want to focus on disarmament -- reducing the number of weapons in each nation's stockpile.
Others say there's no point in building a shield against nuclear missiles when anyone who wanted to hurt the U.S. or its friends could easily use biological or chemical weapons instead.
And some Americans are worried about how much the shield would cost. The U.S. has already spent millions on research and is expected to spend billions more on development.
"The new threats are threats based upon uncertainty, the threats that somebody who hates freedom or hates America or hates our allies or hates Europe, will try to blow us up," said President Bush.
" I think
people are coming our way. But people know that I'm intent upon doing
what I think is the right thing in order to make the world more peaceful."
-- By Carl Ballard, NewsHour Extra
What do you think? Should the U.S. proceed with its missile defense system? How important is it to stick by treaties?
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