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A Maginot Line in the Sky:
International Perspectives on Ballistic Missile Defense

Edited by David Krieger and Carah Ong

California: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 2001
113 pp., $18.95 paper
ISBN 0-9650914-0-6

While people will state that the events of September 11 "proved" many things, it is clear that the mass destruction would not have been prevented if a Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) had been in place. Indeed, those events seem to have proved the statements made by many that BMD would be a defense from the attacks that are most difficult to caarry out both technologically and financially. Others oppose BMD because it is highly unlikely that it could succeed, since it would have to work perfectly — hitting every incoming missile.

A Maginot Line in the Sky focuses primarily upon the international opposition to and effects of BMD. The book is a collection of 18 essays by Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, South Korean, Pacific Islands, Egyptian, German, British, Canadian, and U.S. writers. Their essays reiterate that the Bush administration missile defense plans are opposed by many nations for various reasons. BMD is contrary to the requirements of the U.S.-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, which is called "the cornerstone of the contemporary process of nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation." While the ABM Treaty is bilateral, other nations and the United Nations state that it has prevented further escalation of nuclear weapons development.

While the Bush administration emphasizes that BMD is not aimed at China, the result would be to push China to building more nuclear weapons and delivery systems to ensure that it could overwhelm any missile defense system. The effects of BMD are not just on Russia and China. As Samsung Lee, a Korean, writer states: "The American-led missile defense will consolidate even more rigidly the existing military demarcations between the two Koreas on the one hand, and between Japan and China, on the other hand, reinforcing the political division of the region by alliance systems." Moreover, missile defense that would "shield" Taiwan would increase the likelihood of conventional war by encouraging Taiwanese independence and a resulting war with China.

What of Europe? Generally, European governments see their biggest security threats as ethno-religious conflicts and the dangers posed by "loose nukes" from Russia. BMD does nothing about the former and may increase dangers of the latter if the Russian response is to have more, rather than fewer, weapons, as its officials have stated.

Further, BMD is contrary to the commitment made in Article VI of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

As for other nations, a Canadian professor writes: "the poorer and weaker nations and peoples of the world regard the entire BMD controversy with a mixture of disbelief and disgust. For the world's richest nation to spend such enormous sums on unproven and provocative technologies while failing to pay the full amount of their dues to the UN, refusing to agree to total debt relief for the poorest nations, and denying full access to American markets for such key Developing World products as textiles and sugar, seems utterly incomprehensible." Or as a Pacific Islander puts it: "Pacific peoples are horrified that the US is wasting tens of millions of dollars on NMD testing, but refuses just compensation for people irradiated by the atmospheric nuclear tests between 1946-58."

In addition to the Bush administration making BMD one of its primary goals, on January 6, 1999, Congress passed the National Missile Defense Act, which states that it "is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)."

So there's a lot of work that concerned people of the U.S. need to do to stop BMD. This book will help our understanding of what's at stake.

— Don Hancock

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Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1
Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2794

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