Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Offense, Defense, and History

A prominent Minnesotan recently (June 23) advocated a preemptive strike against a North Korean missle that could reach the U.S.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale said Friday in Minneapolis that he supports a preemptive U.S. strike against a North Korean missile, saying the United States should tell North Korea to dismantle the missile or "we are going to take it out."

"I think it would end the nuclear long-range dreams of this dangerous country," said Mondale, who was the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee and a former U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Hmm. How did the former vice president feel about missle defense when he ran for president in 1984? Here was the second presidential debate:

... Defense Department said to get there we would have to solve eight problems, each of which are more difficult than the atomic bomb and the Manhattan Project. It would cost something like a trillion dollars to test and deploy weapons. The second thing is this all assumes that the Soviets wouldn't respond in kind, and they always do. We don't get behind, they won't get behind and that's been the tragic story of the arms race. We have more at stake in space satellites than they do. If we could stop right now the testing and the deployment of these space weapons and the President's proposals go clear beyond research. If it was just research, we wouldn't have any argument, because maybe some day somebody will think of something. But to commit this nation to a buildup of anti-satellite and space weapons at this time in their crude state would bring about an arms race that's very dangerous indeed. One final point: The most dangerous aspect of this proposal is for the first time we would delegate to computers the decision as to whether to start a war. That's dead wrong. There wouldn't be time for a President to decide. It would be decided by these remote computers. It might be an oil fire, it might be a jet exhaust, the computer might decide it's a missile and off we go. Why don't we stop this madness now and draw a line and keep the heavens free from war?

... Now, why do I support the freeze? Because this ever-rising arms race madness makes both nations less secure, it's more difficult to defend this nation, it is putting a hair trigger on nuclear war. This Administration, by going into the Star Wars system, is going to add a dangerous new escalation. We have to be tough on the Soviet Union, but I think the American people and the people of the Soviet Union want it to stop.

OK. The debate was over space-based weapons, right? So it didn't concern our current missle defense, did it? Here was President Reagan's response in the debate:

...but when you keep star-warring it - I never suggested where the weapons should be or what kind. I'm not a scientist. I said, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed with me, that it was time for us to turn our research ability to seeing if we could not find this kind of a defensive weapon. And suddenly somebody says, oh, it's got to be up there - star wars - and so forth. I don't know what it would be, but if we can come up with one, I think the world will be better off.

And Mondale's dismissive rebuttal:

Well, that's what a President's supposed to know - where those weapons are going to be. If they're space weapons, I assume they'll be in space. If they're antisatellite weapons, I assume they're going to be armed against any satellite. Now, this is the most dangerous technology that we possess. The Soviets try to spy on us - steal this stuff - and to give them technology of this kind, I disagree with. You haven't just accepted research, Mr. President, you've set up a strategic defense initiative and agency. You're beginning to test. You're talking about deploying. You're asking for a budget of some $30 billion for this purpose. This is an arms escalation, and we will be better off - far better off - if we stop right now, because we have more to lose in space than they do. If someday somebody comes along with an answer, that's something else, but that there would be an answer in our lifetime is unimaginable. Why do we start things that we know the Soviets will match and make us all less secure? That's what a President is for.


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