This Round's On You, Again

by Michael W. Stowell

June 11, 2001

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Uncle Sam's taxpayers shelled out $70.7 billion for the first 'Star Wars' plan and all they have to show for it are a few faked tests, an inflated national debt, and a power-drunk corporate/military complex. Bush's current scheme makes Reagan's shenanigans look like a handful of discarded peanut hulls scattered across the barroom floor...and guess who's buying.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who first served a quarter-century ago under President Gerald Ford) is ordering up an increase in military spending of $200 billion - $300 billion over the next six years. That's 10% to 15% more than the Pentagon's current spending proposal of about $2 trillion from 2002 through 2007. President Bush has proposed an increase of $45 billion over nine years but is inclined to follow Rumsfeld's solicitations. This year's Pentagon budget was $296 billion but a supplement is on the way.

On what do they intent to spend all that money? Investments in more satellites, unmanned aircraft and space technology are the most significant priorities and are those most closely associated with a ballistic missile defense program. Rumsfeld would also like to retire Air Force B-1 bombers, which cost $200 million each, and acquire more B-2 'stealth' bombers (he only has 21 at $1.3 billion a copy) even though the B-1s are relatively new and have an operational life cycle of thirty to forty years.

There is some indication that President Bush will fulfill his campaign promise to reduce the ballistic nuclear weapons arsenal (if he can deploy a missile defense system) though he did not tell voters that deactivated ICBMs will be replaced by something that may actually be used. The Bush team is conducting a congressionally mandated review of U.S. nuclear posture and is studying the development, deployment and eventual use of 'low-yield' or tactical nuclear weapons. Implementation would require abandoning a provision in the fiscal year 1994 defense authorization bill prohibiting such research and development, albeit US weapons laboratories are pushing the idea that "highly accurate" low-yield nuclear weapons would "minimize collateral damage" and that such weapons could be useful.

In February, Secretary Rumsfeld went to Munich, Germany for meetings of NATO's top military officials. He was joined by Henry Kissinger, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Vice-presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). It was Lieberman who informed the Europeans that "The question from an American point of view is not whether we will have a national missile defense (NMD), but when and how." In 1999, the US Senate voted overwhelming bi-partisan support (97 to 3) for a more limited version of NMD "when technologically feasible."

However, the NMD testing program at Vandenburg Air Force Base is not going very well. There have been three failures, at $100 million each, and sixteen more tests are scheduled. The tests are like something out of a Hollywood special effects department in that they are 'scripted', both rockets are aimed at each other and flight paths are carefully planned; hardly a real-world scenario. A CBS 60 Minutes II program aired in late December of last year brought some of the problems to light and, in an interview, MIT professor and former US Navy physicist Ted Postol said "We're building things that have no chance of working." Fifty Nobel Prize winners signed a letter to President Clinton calling the system ineffective and a grave danger to the nation's security. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld is talking about doubling the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's budget and expanding its reach.

Overstating the inevitability of anti-ballistic missile defense while knowing the Pentagon is nowhere near having anything that actually works, the Bush II administration must now find something to deploy. Using existing Japan-based Aegis destroyers, a more flexible 'boost-phase' missile defense system, also called Theater Missile Defense (TMD), could be deployed in the Asian-Pacific region by 2010. The US and Japan have been cooperating on development of Navy TMD systems since 1999 and are currently engaged in work on an advanced sensor and kinetic warhead. There are fifty Aegis destroyers and twenty-five more are scheduled for production, the first deployment of eighty missiles on four of the ships is planned to cost $5.4 billion. The total cost of TMD is placed at $200 billion.

Rumsfeld has outlined a broad shift from planning for a major war in Europe, which dominated defense considerations before the Soviet Union collapsed, toward more emphasis on Asia. Lieutenant General Paul Hester, the top commander of US forces in Japan, told Reuters, "Japan's geographic position provides a wonderful opportunity to carry out shared vision." Hester was referring to the US-Japan security agreement which outlines a mutual admiration protection plan and the new defense guidelines drawn up by the two countries authorizing Japan to provide logistical support to the US military in the event of an emergency in the region. Something else to consider is the fact that while the US is the world's most indebted nation, Japan is the largest lender and shares many of the same economic interests.

The Japanese public is not so supportive. The February collision of a US nuclear submarine and a Japanese training trawler left nine Japanese dead and has created tension which is heightened by a series of crimes committed by American military personnel in Okinawa. A newspaper survey has revealed that nearly two-thirds of Japanese voters want a reduction of the American military presence on Okinawa and residents of Yokosuka, near Tokyo, recently presented their mayor with 70,000 signatures on a petition asking him to block US Navy plans to make permanent a nearby US nuclear aircraft carrier base.

The Asian-Pacific TMD system's capability is intended for coverage of North Korea and China and if deployed could bring the whole of Asia into a fray that no one can win. In early May of this year, North Korea's state-run newspaper warned that South Korea will be doomed to "ruin and death" if it cooperates with the US proposed missile defense system. The warning followed a visit to Seoul by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who explained the current plans for missile defense. South Korean officials were careful not to take a stand on the issue and are instead continuing to court Chinese and Russian support to improve ties with Pyongyang. Relations between North and South Korea improved significantly following a historic summit last year but North Korea recently suspended most government contacts with Seoul in protest of the Bush administration's tougher stance against the communist North.

China's Foreign Ministry warns that ambitions to deploy a TMD system will ultimately be self-defeating and trigger a new arms race. "When you invent a new spear, of course you will invent a new shield. When you invent a new shield you will invent new types of spear. It always goes on like that," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said at a recent press briefing. "Therefore all new plans like this will not bring any self-benefit. It will rather harm the interests of others. It's just like lifting a stone and dropping it on one's own feet." China has 20 nuclear warheads capable of hitting the continental US, while the US has 7,519 nuclear warheads capable of hitting China. Their current military budget is 5% of US military spending.

"We have seen that the United States wantonly bombed Yugoslavia and that Yugoslavia had no means to retaliate," China's top arms control official, Sha Zukang, said in an recent New York Times interview. "Once the United States believes it has both a strong spear and a strong shield, it could lead them to conclude that nobody can harm the United States and they can harm anyone they like anywhere in the world. There could be many more bombings like what happened in Kosovo." Sha Zukang also made plain that China's fear was not of a surprise attack, but that a missile shield would lead American politicians to believe that the United States was so powerful and well protected that it could act with virtual impunity. "Even when national missile defense was not there they bombed the Sudan, they bombed Afghanistan and they bombed Iraq," he said. "It could lead to the development of a tendency of the use or threat of use of force, more often than is necessary by the United States, in the conduct of international relations."

Bush's recent saber-rattling over Taiwan has not only jeopardized two decades of careful progress in US/China relations, it is also unsettling political friends in Japan. The Japanese voters recently brought to power a new insurgent leadership in the dominant Liberal Democratic Party and Makiko Tanaka, the most popular politician in the country, has been appointed Foreign Minister. One of five women in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's new reform-minded cabinet, Tanaka said in her first interview with reporters, "On the issues between China and Taiwan, the international community should not try to stir things up maliciously but watch calmly...I believe that we are in a situation where we should review Japan's security role and the status of US troops in Japan." Increased Pentagon war games in the Pacific near Asia are troubling the Chinese as well as Japan's involvement in TMD, the perception that anti-Chinese voices are influencing US policy, those unnecessarily provocative US spy plane flights off China's coastline and, most critically, arm sales to Taiwan.

Bush's Republican cronies aren't helping matters. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has been pushing as many anti-China buttons as he can so that the US will sell the Taiwanese Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are manufactured at the Litton-Ingalls' shipyard in Lott's hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Litton Industries, now part of Northrup-Grumman, is one of Lott's top-10 campaign contributors. For his own part, Bush has offered to sell Taiwan diesel-powered submarines but he can't deliver on the deal because the US no longer makes them and Germany, Holland and Sweden, which the US has licensed to make them, have refused to do so. Washington's military exports to Taiwan in the last twenty years are near $20 billion.

And what about the Senate Democrats' new majority leader, Tom Daschle? "The President has said that he wants to deploy and I think that is a premature decision and we certainly wouldn't be prepared to do that." Senator Daschle did not say that he would try to kill the program, "It wasn't dead under the Clinton administration and it shouldn't be dead under this administration or a Democratic majority in the Senate," he said. "We're for continued research." Research and development is underway for NMD, TMD and the space-based laser and Daschle has supported all of these development programs. "But if you're asking, 'Should we violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty?' if you're asking, 'Should we alienate every ally and Russia and China besides?' if you're asking, 'Should we commit to something, deploy something that still hasn't been shown to work?' I'd say no. Let's continue to move it forward but let's get the facts first and let's try to work out the problems first." Apparently Senator Daschle is unfamiliar with the ABM Treaty; further research and development of missile defense is a violation of the Treaty.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji recently met with Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf and the proposed Pacific TMD system was discussed. Pakistan is one of China's military customers and the two nations are being forced into a stronger alliance by the US TMD plans. "We are against any action that re-initiates a nuclear missile race," Musharraf said. Pakistan is believed to have received key nuclear weapons and missile technology from China, although diplomats say there is no indication of such transactions in recent years.

Were Pakistan to launch against its nuclear nemesis, India, or India against Pakistan, a TMD "shield" would be of no use because the missile delivery time is one-fifth that needed for a TMD 'shoot-down', so neither country could benefit from anti-missile deployment. However, India might be prepared to back the TMD plans for political reasons, it could reap great benefits from alignment with the US, including the possible lifting of sanctions that were imposed when India conducted the Pokhran I tests. Indian Prime Minister Atel Behari Vajpayee has applauded the US proposal to make reductions in its nuclear arsenal but, like most world leaders consulted thus far, he has offered no endorsement for the Bush missile defense plans.

Europe is as skeptical as is Asia.

An "orderly and positive dialogue" between the US and China is "absolutely decisive" for Denmark's future position on missile defense. Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mogens Lykketoft has repeatedly stressed the crucial significance of the Chinese reaction. "If one looks ten, twenty, or thirty years ahead, the world is likely to have two superpowers again, and one of them will be China." Lykketoft also called for "an active and focused dialogue" with the so-called 'rogue' states and highlighted the European Union's efforts to encourage a renewed dialogue between the US and North Korea. Greenland is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark and would be a strategic location for US radar support of the American national missile defense program.

Anna Lindh, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU), emerged from a recent meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and told the media that "I haven't changed my mind" about missile defense. The EU views the 1972 ABM Treaty as "very strategic, and we don't want the ABM Treaty threatened," she said.

Tony Benn, a British Labour Party Member of Parliament, has held several cabinet positions from 1966 to 1979. "Bush seems to be set on a course of world domination especially by means of introducing the NMD rearmament program, which will allow U.S. spacecraft to destroy any land installations in the world. The immediate consequence has been to alienate European allies in NATO and the Russians and the Chinese. It could trigger a new global arms race costing billions of dollars at a time when world poverty represents a far more direct threat to peace."

"Bush seems to combine the isolationism that led the American Senate to reject the League of Nations after the First World War with a readiness to act unilaterally in a truly imperial style. One of the tragedies of this, from a British point of view, is that Britain has gone along with American policy with very rare exceptions since 1945, the most noteworthy Prime Minister Harold Wilson's rejection of Lyndon Johnson's request for British military support in Vietnam."

"For many people in Europe and worldwide, the subservience of London to Washington is something of a puzzle because as a member of the UN Security Council, a significant member of the European Union and with important links with the Commonwealth, Britain would seem ideally placed to play a more independent role in world affairs. However, the so-called special relationship which, we are told, gives us unique influence in Washington is, in fact, a complete fraud. The plain truth is that successive British governments have boasted about our independent nuclear deterrent when, in fact, Britain is entirely dependent on the United States for access to the technology that allows Trident nuclear submarines to fly the British flag. In reality, if any British government ever tried to fire those missiles, they could not be targeted without the global satellite navigation system, controlled from the Pentagon, being switched on to make it possible. In return, the U.S. has many bases in Britain supervising our intelligence services and our nuclear policy."

Mr. Benn summarizes, "This is why Mr. Blair had to go along with the bombings of Iraq and why, when the detailed all new Star Wars plan is published, the Prime Minister will, after the impending British election is safely over, announce his full support."

Nevertheless, many Europeans still remember the US refusal to share vital satellite reconnaissance information during the Yugoslavia war and, led by France and Germany, NATO is now building its own military satellites and a rapid deployment force outside of US formal control. On May 29th, NATO's top policy-making body, the North Atlantic Council, stopped far short of endorsing the Bush administration's plan for a missile defense system and stated that NATO allies do not foresee the possibility of missile attack as a common threat (as the Bush administration had hoped) and offered only to "continue substantive consultations" with Washington. There exists some speculation that NATO is about to award development work for a regional TMD to a consortium (code-named Janus) headed by Lockheed Martin and including BAE Systems.

Russia is still angered by Rumsfeld's statement that the ABM Treaty is "ancient history" and discussions have begun with China to coordinate opposition to the US missile defense plans. Russia has prepared a less expensive missile defense alternative which would rely heavily on diplomacy and has submitted those plans to NATO. To win Russia's cooperation in scrapping the ABM Treaty, the Bush team is preparing a new and improved offer of arms purchases, military aid and joint anti-missile exercises. The proposals will be presented in conjunction with the first meeting between President George W. Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin, on June 16th in Slovenia and are likely to include an offer to buy Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles that could be integrated into ballistic missile defense over Russia and Europe.

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, explained the broader context of the administration's objective: "We want to convince the Russians that it is in their best interest to move beyond the ABM treaty and to develop a new relationship with us." Washington would like to entice Moscow to cooperate on security issues because the deeper U.S. objective is to derail a potential Russian-Chinese partnership against U.S. interests that, if formalized, could tilt the balance of power in Eurasia against the United States.

Of course, impoverished Russia cannot compete in an arms race against the United States. But if ballistic missile defense is developed and deployed the temptation to proliferate military technology will grow and with it Russian arms exports. Instead of deterring a rogue missile threat, Bush may well be inviting one.

Both China and Russia believe that US missile defense is aimed at reducing the strategic importance of their own nuclear arsenals while giving the US "control and dominance of space" and the Earth below. Russia hosted an international conference on preventing the militarization of outer space in April and more than 100 countries sent representatives; the US did not attend. The conference, called "Space Without Weapons," was proposed by President Putin last September during a UN speech.

Prior to assuming his current position as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld was chairperson of the US Space Commission. In a recently released report the Commission stated that "In the coming period the US will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on Earth and in space." Rumsfeld's Commission is recommending that the US Space Command be made a quasi-independent armed service, a Space Corps, like the US Marine Corps.

In an attempt to validate the NMD and TMD while expanding military operations into space, Rumsfeld is now insisting that a "layered" missile defense is necessary. It would combine the use of ground-launched rockets to intercept missiles midway through flight, with sea- and space-based weapons that would make the intercept during a ballistic missile's ascent phase. The cost would be astronomical.

The US Space Command's "Long Range Plan" declares: "The time has come to address, among warfighters and national policy makers, the emergence of space as a center of gravity for the Department of Defense and the nation...Space power in the 21st Century looks similar to previous military revolutions, such as aircraft carrier warfare and Blitzkrieg." In December, the Pentagon began a $30 billion development program for a 'Space Based Laser' at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Nicknamed 'The Death Star', Boeing, TRW and Lockheed Martin will build it.

When President Reagan first announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, the original 'Star Wars', he said it was about fending off what he considered the "evil empire," the Soviet Union. There is no Soviet Union now and no country presents a challenge to the US military, so why a new 'Star Wars' plan? The US Space Command's 'Vision 2020' describes the mission as "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict." It also states: "The globalization of the world economy will also continue with a widening between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'." From land, sea, air and space, the power-drunk corporate/military complex intends to keep those 'have-nots' in line and continue its exploitation and destruction of not only our planet, but our humanity as well.


       Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of both the City of Arcata, Humboldt County, CA, Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission and the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Arcata Library. He is the producer/editor/videographer of numerous public access television programs; he is a naturalist, a gardener, a bicyclist and a Swans columnist.

[Ed. Note: The City of Arcata, incorporated in 1858, is located in Humboldt County, on California's Redwood Coast, at the juncture of California Highway 101 and 299 West. The city is approximately 289 miles north of San Francisco, 150 miles west of Redding and 760 miles north of Los Angeles. The 1990 census reported Arcata's population as 15,197 and the county population as 119,118.]


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Published June 11, 2001
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