The Phantom Defense : America's Pursuit of the Star Wars Illusion
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 October 2001
The authors, veterans of the military, the CIA, the U.S. Foreign Service, and Argonne National Laboratory, declare that "national security must take precedence over partisan and self-serving policies; national missile defense should be turned down in the national interest." This brief, focused book explains this damning conclusion. Part 1 examines the history of "Star Wars," the mythology that has been cultivated around the dream of a national missile defense (NMD) system, and the place of NMD in a larger unilateralist worldview gaining strength in Washington. Part 2 dissects the threat NMD is intended to meet, explains "why national missile defense won't work," and describes the flaws of newer, more exotic forms of NMD currently being proposed. Part 3 considers the geopolitical consequences of a unilateral U.S. effort to implement NMD and discusses the arms-control and policy alternatives. Testing possible NMD systems has already cost the nation billions of dollars; perhaps before we decide to implement this technology, voters and politicians need to consider the questions raised here. ((Reviewed October 1, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
PW Reviews 2001 September #2
The authors (Eisendrath and Goodman are senior fellows with the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.; Marsh is a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory) present a sound indictment of the missile defense plans of the Bush administration. The thesis of this compressed, not overly technical book is that effective defense against incoming ballistic missiles is impossible given the current state of technology. Countermeasures (camouflaging the real warhead, decoys) against a defensive system can be devised by an attacking state at low cost, so the defensive system cannot reliably distinguish real from sham targets. The authors see no point in pouring $100 billion or more into a system so fraught with technical difficulty and so vulnerable to unsophisticated countermeasures. If national missile defense is the "phantom" of the book's title, then why has it been pursued so intensively by the right wing of American politics? For the authors, the answer lies in the alliance of defense contractors, who have benefited from the enormous sums spent on Star Wars initiatives since the Reagan years, with politicians on the right, who batten on campaign contributions from those contractors. The authors trace how pressure to portray missile defense as feasible has led to exaggeration of threats, rigged tests and suppression of inconvenient data. This book presents a partisan but powerful case, one that advocates of national missile defense will be called upon to rebut. The outcome of the debate matters, and not only because of the money at stake. If the authors here are correct, deploying even an ineffective missile defense will trigger a renewed arms race and jeopardize rather than enhance U.S. security. (Oct) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.