DeM Banter: 30 years ago…wow, really? Good words from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)…might be a good thing to have…maybe? Still Wondering Where the Lions Are…
March 26, 2013
“Our only purpose — one all people share — is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war.” With those words, 30 years ago this month, President Ronald Reagan launched America’s development of a missile defense system. In the speech introducing the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”, Reagan challenged the nation’s leaders to make protecting and strengthening the peace their top priority. SDI would use a combination of ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by nuclear ballistic missiles.
The 30th anniversary of the SDI speech provides us with an opportunity to revisit those timeless national security concepts articulated by Reagan, assess the growing missile and nuclear proliferation risk to our national security and reinvigorate our efforts.
Interestingly, the Obama administration recently reversed course on the importance of a key part of our missile defense system and announced it will ask Congress for the authority to deploy 14 additional interceptor missiles in response to threats from North Korea. It is good to see President Barack Obama finally taking the North Korean threat seriously. When he took office, one of Obama’s first actions was to put the brakes on the plan to deploy these interceptor missiles.
Reagan’s Star Wars plan was based on a simple premise: “The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace.” It is a timeless truth, we maintain peace through strength. Weakness invites aggression.
Challenges to our resolve to protect and strengthen the peace are emerging more frequently. One glaring example is North Korea, the world’s leader in missile proliferation. It continues to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions by testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Another is Iran, which has an extensive missile development program and has received support from Russia, China and North Korea. Iran reportedly could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.
China is moving ahead with the development of a new and more capable generation of ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles, increasing its existing ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States and to overwhelm missile defense systems. Russia is building a variety of new ICBMs that could carry up to 15 warheads, according to reports in the Russian press.
But China and Russia are paragons of stability compared to some countries.
The U.S. and its allies must quicken the pace if we are to stay one step ahead of unstable regimes that continue to develop credible missile and nuclear capabilities with which to threaten democracies around the world.
The Missile Defense Agency continues to be highly successful in deploying U.S. capability and in forging technology partnerships with our allies. Missile defense interceptors are deployed to Alaska and California and are standing ready to provide homeland defense. We work jointly with Israel. We are collaborating with our European allies to implement the European Phased Adaptive Approach that culminates in 2021 with a system able to intercept medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Without adequate funding both the U.S. and our allies are at risk.
Reagan also acknowledged the budgetary challenge by reminding the nation that funding missile defense is more than an “arithmetic exercise.” Today, as in 1983, many agitate for reducing our military using simple subtraction to balance the budget without fully understanding or addressing the national security consequences of such a simplistic approach. In Obama’s first budget to Congress, he proposed slashing more than 10 percent from the missile defense budget in a single year. He has continued to seek even further reductions since then. For example, in the fiscal year 2010 budget, Obama canceled every missile technology development program.
The administration has yet to satisfactorily address how the nation will “protect and strengthen the peace” against missiles launched from the Middle East. Hollowing out our missile defense capability, given the increased risk to our national security, would not allow the U.S. to protect and strengthen the peace. Weakening our missile defense capability simply encourages other countries to test our resolve.
Thirty years ago this month, Reagan used his foresight and leadership to inspire the nation to accomplish the impossible by moving beyond the perceived possibilities of the day. We must once again focus the nation on the goal of protecting and strengthening the peace — attainable only from a position of strength. A lot has changed since 1983, but the need for a robust missile defense has never been greater.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the Missile Defense Caucus.