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The Clinton administration has acknowledged that ours is an unsafe
world. Back in January, Secretary of Defense William Cohen acknowledged
that there is a growing threat of a missile attack against the United
States and said that we would have to deploy a limited national defense
to protect the American people against it.
Mr. Clinton always has given lip service to missile defense. He just
never included any funds to back up his rhetoric. This year, things are
different. The Administration’s new budget includes some $6.6 billion
for such a system, but there is a catch. The money for missile defense
is in what is known as the “out year” budgets. In other words, it’s
several years down the road. In fact, Mr. Cohen has admitted that the
decision to make such a deployment will not be made for at least another
Meanwhile, China increased the number of long-range missiles it aimed
at our country by 44 percent last year. Russia still has more than 6,000
operational warheads, and there are more than 20 Third World countries
that have development programs for weapons of mass destruction well
under way. Where does this leave the people of the United States? Naked
There are some other problems with Mr. Clinton’s rhetoric: The
administration is still holding onto the anti-ballistic missile treaty
we signed with the old Soviet Union, and in fact has signed a new
agreement to expand the treaty with Russia which has not been ratified.
The ABM treaty specifically forbids us from deploying any real defense
against incoming ICBMs. Also the president wants this defense to be
limited and ground-based. This would effectively co-opt the more
effective, sea-based system which could be in place at least two years
So, what does Mr. Clinton really mean when he says he wants missile
defense? We’re about to find out because the bipartisan Cochran-Inouye
“National Missile Defense Act” will be on the floor any day now and the
Administration has formally announced its opposition to this bill. Why?
Because it calls on the deployment of this technology “as soon as
technologically possible,” not something that is at least eight years
down the road.
We can no longer argue that a defense against these weapons is too
expensive. The cost of deployment would amount to about 1 percent of the
total defense budget, which is far less than what we already have spent
on the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
Presently, it appears that Mr. Clinton’s support of missile defense
is as fuzzy as his definitions of “is” and “alone.” Here’s the message
for Mr. Clinton: The Cochran-Inouye bill, S.257, is missile
defense and if you don’t support it you will stand alone.