The Outdated Arguments Against National Missile Defense That Could Get Us All Killed(Source nationalinterest.org)
Nuclear war is the greatest military threat that America faces. A single 500-kiloton nuclear warhead of the type common in the Russian strategic arsenal, if burst above a U.S. city, would cause heavy damage to a radius of three miles, widespread fires to a radius of six miles, and skin lacerations to a radius of nine miles. Electronic systems including power grids would be disabled to a far greater distance, and life-threatening radiation would linger for years. Russia has over a thousand such warheads on ballistic missiles able to reach the U.S., and that is where the vast majority of them are presumed to be aimed. The sole U.S. military system capable of intercepting nuclear warheads traveling at intercontinental speeds is the Ground-based Midcourse Defense deployed in California and Alaska, but that system is only expected to deploy 44 interceptor missiles and is itself vulnerable to destruction. Beyond that, Washington relies mainly on the threat of retaliation to deter nuclear aggression against the American homeland. The United States is thus the only dominant military power in recorded history that has elected to forego active defenses against the greatest threat to its survival. Missile defense currently claims only 1% of the U.S. defense budget, and most of that goes to dealing with regional threats rather than the strategic danger Russia and China pose to America. In other words, Washington spends more money each month defending Afghanistan than it does in a year trying to defend against the one challenge that could destroy American civilization. The reason for this seemingly perverse arrangement of military priorities lies in a series of assumptions about nuclear threats that won acceptance from Western elites during the Cold War. With the passage of time, most of those assumptions have been called into question by new technology and changes in the geopolitical landscape. However, there has been no serious rethinking of U.S. nuclear strategy.