To: Gore

From: Jude Wanniski

Re: Psst … Here is a Bush Weakness!

Yes, Mr. Vice President, I agree with your criticism of George W’s
proposal to build a space-based AND ground-based antiballistic missile
system to protect the 50 states and our friends around the world from a
nuclear missile attack by a “rogue nation.” It is a zany idea that comes
from Bush’s absolutely coo-coo national security advisors — Richard
Perle and Paul Wolfowitz — who have been bored to death since the end
of the Cold War and would like to get some action going. The fact that
these characters have Bush in their hip pocket means they also have the
GOP political establishment in their hip pocket, because there is no
place else to go. I note that former Treasury Secretary George Shultz,
who has been wrong on ALMOST every public policy position he has ever
taken and who opposed “Star Wars” when it made sense, now supports it
when it makes no sense.

There was no bigger supporter of “Star Wars” than Jude Wanniski when
it was
first proposed in the Reagan administration. When the Soviets were
aiming 10,000 ballistic missiles at us, it did not matter if “Star Wars”
might not work as planned. The very idea that it would complicate
Moscow’s planning and we would get the cost/benefit advantage was enough
for me. Even if we built antiballistic missiles out of cardboard, as
long as they looked real when seen from a Soviet satellite, the concept
would help break the will of their strategic planners. And it did.
George W. Shultz was wrong.

I even helped persuade the Wall Street Journal editorial board to
embrace the label “Star Wars” when it was trying to make it sound less
fantastic by calling it a “Strategic Defense Initiative.” It got much
more public support by being identified with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo
in their struggle against the Evil Empire’s Death Star. “SDI” sounds
like a bureaucratic acronym for the military-industrial complex, which
is what George W. Bush is now proposing. There ain’t no more Death Star.
And the only Evil Empire on the planet is the International Monetary
Fund, run by Darth Vader, a name that loosely translates into “Father of

Bush sounds like a reasonable fellow because he is proposing to get
rid of a bunch of our offensive nuclear missiles, which are gathering
dust anyway and provide no profits to the arms merchants anymore. His
proposal, which the WSJ thinks is just about the cleverest idea it has
ever come across, would cost ONE ZILLION DOLLARS, give or take a
trillion. To any objections from the People’s Republic of China that
such a system would be offensive in nature and would push them into an
arms race, Bush would suggest we sell or rent them use of this
state-of-the-art defensive weaponry so they can be protected against
“rogue states” too.

Your problem, however, is that you will not be able to cash in on
this issue at the polls in November because your own missile-defense
program is just as bad (although not quite as expensive). Where the arms
merchants are running Bush’s campaign, Greenpeace has you in its hip
pocket. The military-industrial complex wants to buy a zillion dollars’
worth of insurance against the possibility that some tinhorn dictator
will get his hands on enough plutonium to build a nuclear bomb, then
will build a rocket in his back yard, stick the warhead on its nose and
maybe BLOW UP South Korea or, even worse, Israel!!! The
Perle-Wolfowitz-Shultz-Bush plan requires development of ground-based
ABMs backed up with a system in space that would be able to keep an eye
on all the backyards of all the tinhorn dictators. When it spots their
missile being fired, it would shoot a laser beam at it and knock it off
before it really got going. Maybe the fragments would even fall back
right on the head of the tinhorn dictator and kill him (or her). It
would serve him (or her) right. You can see how expensive such a system
might be, Mr. Vice President, which is one reason why you propose your
land-based system.

Trying to explain this to a friend the other day, I put it this way:
“Bush wants to protect his house by buying a thousand Dobermans and
having them snarl around the entire perimeter of the property. Gore is
only buying one really expensive Doberman, but it is blind.” By this,
Mr. Vice President, I mean you can’t expect me to believe a ground-based
system can protect anyone from an incoming nuke by shooting a bullet at
it. It is conceivable that you could fire a nuke at the incoming nuke
and even if you came close, you would blow it up before it reached its
target. The greenies oppose this method because they do not want nuclear
stuff flying around in the atmosphere. Oh well.

The other problem with your plan is that even if you could hit a
bullet with a bullet, how do you know where to put your ground-based
ABM? If you locate it in California, maybe the tinhorn dictator will
fire it at Florida or New York City. You would have to build a lot of
them. The arms merchants will be happy to oblige but what about the

What I would suggest, sir, is that you simply abandon your
bullet-to-bullet scheme. It is not a risky scheme, but it is
blind-as-a-bat and will not guard against any intrusions. Instead, you
should get behind the idea of defending our naval fleets against nuclear
attack. Regional defense makes more practical sense than area defense.

If our fleets were equipped with ABM systems, no tinhorn dictator
would fire his (or her) one or two rockets at them because they would
probably get knocked down — as long as you were prepared to fire
“enhanced radiation” bullets at them. That’s a nice term for little
nuke warheads that would work even in the vicinity of an incoming. You
would have to explain to Greenpeace that it would be better to have the
nuke explosion in the upper atmosphere rather than in the middle of the
fleet. You can do that. It might even help you win the election.

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