Anti-Ballistic Missile System
Jude Wanniski
June 16, 1999


Memo To: GOP presidential candidates
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: "Star Wars"

Of course Texas Governor George W. Bush has come out for increased spending on a missile defense system, an anti-ballistic "Star Wars" program. The GOP Political Establishment is far more interested in spending another several hundred billion dollars on this program than it is in cutting tax rates and expanding the economy at a rate fast enough to solve the long-term Social Security problem. The American people really don't see a need for rushing ahead with Star Wars and to tell you the truth, there is none. This is the Military-Industrial Complex in full swing, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in his farewell to the White House. The advisors to George W. Bush who coached him into this position are my old friends from the Cold War days, when I was among the earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of such a system. As a writer for the National Observer, I wrote a long op-ed essay in the spring of 1969 in support of Richard Nixon's ABM proposal. It was then I got to know serious Cold War intellectuals such as Richard Perle, Bill Schneider and Paul Wolfowitz. Perle was then a kid who worked for Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson, a Democrat who represented the state of Washington and Boeing.

My argument for supporting ABM was not that it would work, but that the Soviets had to assume that we would somehow make it work well enough to counter their massive missile system that they would have to spend more and more on that massive system to maintain its credibility. That is, there was a cost/benefit advantage to us with the ABM that would help break the will of the Soviets and make them realize they could not gain on us without bankrupting their own economy. By the time President Ronald Reagan came along, the idea had lost its usefulness because the scientific community insisted there really was no practical way of knocking down an incoming re-entry vehicle. Reagan insisted upon a review of his own, just to make sure. The scientists who came together for the review decided that there had been such an advance in computer power from the review of a decade earlier that they could recommend what was then called a "Strategic Defense Initiative." I also was a serious supporter of this proposal, believing it would contribute to Reagan's full-court press against the Evil Empire. The Reagan tax cuts were just as important, in my mind even more important, in that they set the economy on a course of expansion that would confound Moscow. While they were spending 25% of GNP on the military, we were spending 6%, and suddenly we began growing faster -- our percentage of defense spending staying constant all the while, with the deficit rising and interest rates in decline. Supply-side economics and our technical muscle in combination caused the Russians to throw in the towel.

To crank up "Star Wars" now practically requires our peacetime Military-Industrial Establishment to create a new nuclear ballistic missile threat from abroad. There is plenty of money from the industry side, which would enjoy slicing into that melon in a big way. Alas, we practically have to give away all our secrets to various "rogue nations" and to the People's Republic of China and hope that they make nasty sounds indicating they may sling an odd missile or two at us. The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act is of course only one of the most outrageous pieces of legislation cooked up by Perle-Wolfowitz-Shneider & Co., hoping to provoke the Chinese into enough saber rattling to get mucho dinero out of the Congress. President William Clinton will sign such legislation, because he has become an important figure in the Military-Industrial Complex, as has Al Gore.

Now I still think the idea of a missile defense system is a good one, but that the Reagan story demonstrates that we can take our time, as our computer power continues to grow at fantastic rates, and the rest of the world remains stuck with moth-eaten missiles. This "Star Wars" crowd proposes the 21st Century equivalent of the 1950s Nike Hercules Air Defense System. On the other hand, the really big part of Star Wars, which we should be continuing to develop in association with the Brits, French and Russians is the ICBM launch-detection, target acquisition and tracking capabilities, all global and all based in space. Any of you candidates who supports the "Taiwan Security Enhancement Act" should be prepared for a Democratic candidate in 2000 who will eat you alive. Dick Morris will be right there, advising on how to triangulate against a GOP that is so stupid as to sell advanced weaponry to Taiwan, as a parallel to what Nikita Khrushchev did that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis with John F. Kennedy.

A go-slow program that totally involves fleet defense against re-entry vehicles is about where I think spending could be justified. If you try to get more than that, you will lose the White House and the Congress next year. In 1996, Clinton ran against Newt Gingrich trying to close down the school-lunch program and the New Deal safety net. In 2000, he and Al Gore would level the charge that the GOP is trying to start World War III with China. He would win. Will the GOP be so dumb as to fall into that trap? Why not? It's as easy as falling off a log.

* * * * *

The following article is from the Newsletter of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China
No. 99-12, June 10, 1999,

China Opposes U.S. Congress Act on Taiwan

The Chinese government and people firmly oppose the so-called Taiwan Security Enhancement Act introduced by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said in Beijing on June 8 at a regular press conference.

Zhang said that the act brazenly advocated the enhancement of the military forces of Taiwan by selling advanced weaponry to the island including the Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system and submarines, and even by forging direct ties and expanding cooperation between military forces of the United States and Taiwan.

"The proposed act constitutes a gross violation of the three Sino-U.S. Joint Communiques," she said. "In essence, it is aimed at offering legal basis through more domestic legislation for U.S. sales of various sophisticated weapons including TMD to Taiwan and for strengthening relations and cooperation between the armed forces of the United States and Taiwan."

The act will serve to block China's reunification cause by further interfering in China's internal affairs and creating "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan," she added.

"It must be pointed out that if the act is passed, it will boost the arrogance of Taiwan's 'independence forces,' obstruct the development of the ties across the Taiwan Straits, damage the peace and stability of the Asian and Pacific region, and lead to serious consequences in the Sino-U.S. ties," Zhang said.

"China strongly demands the U.S. administration adhere to the three Sino-U.S. Joint Communiques and honor relevant promises, fully realize the great harm of the act, oppose it in a clear-cut way, and immediately take effective measures to prevent it from passage and becoming a law," she noted.