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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 10:03 GMT
Will missile defence make the world safer?
President George W Bush has ordered the American military to deploy a limited system to defend the US against the risk of ballistic missile attacks.

The plan calls for 10 interceptor missiles based in Alaska to be ready by 2004 to serve as a "modest" starting point towards better defence, Mr Bush said in a written statement.

His decision comes days after the latest failure of an anti-missile test over the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, the US has requested the use of the Fylingdales radar station in North Yorkshire for the controversial national missile defence system, dubbed the Son of Star Wars programme.

Fylingdales has an advanced radar which could track missiles launched by 'rogue states' or terrorists. They would then in theory be shot down as they neared the US coastline.

Opponents say the scheme is unnecessary and would simply make Britain a target, without giving it protection and could potentially start a new arms race.

What do you think? Will it make the world safer? Will it work? Will Britain's co-operation on the Son of Star Wars programme make it safer or more of a target? Could it spark


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

It will make the world safer temporarily

Brenda S, USA
Yes, it will make the world safer temporarily. Then eventually, someone will find a way to go around the system, or even hack into it. So that's how far that system will go. But now, since there is this threat from the rogue nuclear states, it's worth it. As for the UK, you are already a target, being the only other country who can even come close to capabilities and ideology of the USA.
Brenda S, USA

I think that it is foolish for GWB to even think about making a missile defence shield. And while I am not exactly up to date on the situation in Britain concerning the missile defence shield, I do know that defensive countermeasures for ballistic missiles are being installed in Alaska that have had a less than 50% success rate. It seems to me that if we are going to throw money into a missile defence shield, it should at least work.
Andrew, USA

This missile defence is ludicrous and a waste of taxpayer's money. The terrorists of the world are laughing themselves silly over this programme. They have never had so much immunity to their fiendish plots. Thank God Canada opted out of this fantasy.
Clint Kennedy, Canada

We have the right to defend ourselves. We have been attacked and now we are responding. The European community once again wishes to stick its head in the sand in the face of growing danger, we don't plan on facing danger so foolishly.
Ben Friedman, USA

The Son of Star Wars has an eerie ring to it

Andy Thomas, Canada
The Son of Star Wars has an eerie ring to it. For those of us who remember the weekly testing of the American early warning system on the television during the Cold War, the pattern seems all too familiar. What happened to the relief we all had at the end of the Cold War, when nuclear disarmament treaties took hold? Have we all failed to remember the lessons of yesteryear, or have we become so apathetic during peace time that we feel that we have no choice, but to start rattling the sabres again? If we fall under the umbrella of the Son of Star Wars, who is to say the enemy, whoever they may be, don't set up a system of their own? Will human nature's urge to wage war ever cease?
Andy Thomas, Canada

The proposed US Missile Defence Shield contravenes the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the agreement that prevented a nuclear exchange during the Cold War. Creating a system that protects the US and its allies, is only going to spark a new nuclear arms race, probably involving 'portable' devices that don't require expensive and detectable missile delivery. It's very likely if Iraq or al-Qaeda possess any nuclear material, it'll be packed in a suitcase anyway.
Jamie Taylor, UK

The US has spent most of the last century and untold billions of dollars defending its allies around the world. We are not warmongering imperialists; have you not seen what we did for Grenada, Panama, Kuwait and Afghanistan? We are currently deploying a medium-range missile defence system in Israel; we have a prototype laser weapon that can detect and destroy short-range artillery; and now we're developing a defence against long-range missiles.

As we develop these weapons we will inevitably share them with our allies. When rogues like North Korea learn that their missile programs are worthless, they'll have one less method of blackmailing their neighbours. You short-sighted folk who think we will defend ourselves at the expense of our allies are ignoring our entire history.
Jim Riedmann, USA

We should oppose this militaristic occupation of Britain

Dave, UK
We should oppose this militaristic occupation of Britain by the world's leading rogue state. After all, hasn't America bombed or invaded over 50 countries since 1945? We shall never surrender to the occupiers - the resistance has started, and will grow.
Dave, UK

It is to boost the morale of their nation. The US should concentrate to lowering the number of their enemies worldwide, not by just killing them but by peaceful means.
Anwer Murtaza, Pakistan

Son of Star Wars will be as effective as its parent - which is to say completely useless as a defence system. The main reason the US wants this system in place is to boost its economy by placing it on a war footing allowing the government to spend billions with its friends and sponsors. And just who is going to sling nukes across Europe to get to the US anyway? So in the end the UK becomes a terrorist target so that the US economy can stagger back to its feet again. Oh deep joy!
Mick W, UK

The need of this system is highlighted by the rogue states having weapons of mass destruction. Only an efficient system will deter its use. This is a preventive action better than a reactive one.
MoJo, France

America should really take a long hard look at its foreign policy

Kevin, Scotland
If America wants to spend billions on this then let them waste there money, the truth of the matter is nuclear or chemical weapons are more likely to be assembled in the USA (probably by Americans) and driven up Pennsylvania avenue in a pick up truck than delivered by an ICBM from the Middle East! America should really take a long hard look at its foreign policy and work out why it is in this mess, it might then come up with a more just policy for the whole Middle East.
Kevin, Scotland

The chances of a rogue state or terrorist group having the ability to deploy ballistic missiles against the USA are very slim. The greater risk is to the 50 year theory of nuclear deterrents, once the USA is no longer threatened then they have a free reign of terror over any other nation, including the major nuclear powers.
Tom, England

Since when have terrorists or rogue states had ICBM capability? A US based defence system would not have the response time to neutralise medium range missiles like SCUDS (which can't threaten the US anyway). If it only works against ICBM's (inter-continental ballistic missiles) and the only non-allied states to possess them are China and the former Soviet Union, who are we defending against again?
Jim, Belfast, Ireland

Missile defence has nothing to do with defence at all. It is a plan for the US to gain a strategic and diplomatic advantage over the rest of the world. Without the prospect of mutual-destruction the US can do whatever it wants without fear of retaliation. This makes more sense when you consider the new Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.
Toby, UK

In the Gulf War, the first objective for the Allies was to take out the Iraqi radar installations so they could go about their business unhindered. Any future US enemy would likely do the same. The best way to ensure Fylingdales could not be repaired or rebuilt would be to drop a nuclear weapon on it. Does the UK really want to become America's nuclear stopgap? Of course, this makes sense to the Americans, but to people who actually think about the consequences it's a totally different story.
Darren Badrock, England

The "new" missile defence system isn't about terrorism or "rogue" states. It's about propping up the US's massive military industrial complex. No nation, no matter how foolish or tyrannical, would launch a missile at the US. The launch point could be tracted easily, giving a return address. No one would risk the retaliation that would follow.
Christopher, USA

Having studies strategic studies for 16 years I am more aware than most what weapon systems all sides have and the UK is already a target, it always has been, so it won't all of a sudden become a target if Fylingdales is used in the ABM mode, to say that would be a sign more of the ignorance of the person suggesting such a thing. I recommend to those in CND to get educated and realize what weapon systems are still targeted at the UK from China and Russia in this post Cold War period in which Russia alone still has some 26,000 nuclear warheads.
Dr Gary Sewell, USA

I think that every one can see where all this nuclear free for all is heading, what is the problem with at least attempting to defend ourselves. I think it ignorant to think that the US would leave us to fend for ourselves, at the very least they would want to maintain there investment.
Ty Emery, UK

The station would just become a prime target

Martin, UK
How can you say that the cooperation from our county would benefit anyone except the US? The station would just become a prime target, and one without any form of defence unless missiles were stationed there too. One missile could take out the station, and then it's back to square one. In the end, it's a loss for the UK, as we would just be target, and an easy one at that. And anyone who says that it will benefit the whole world eventually is obviously not thinking about the big picture. What would be left to benefit?
Martin, UK

The missile shield is definitely a good idea. It will not protect us against terrorists, but it will (if it works) afford some protection against rogue states and future "strategic competitors". Not only should Britain accept the radar station, but my country also ought to invite the US to build on our soil - even further east. After all, we are a part of Nato now.
Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia

Of course we should help the Americans to help ourselves, but by the sound of a lot of the liberal whingers on this page, they are more willing to put their trust in appeasement, shame on you UK people.
Mike, England

Oh good, now we can be back in the front line without any protection, just as we were in the cold war - the real danger to America is American foreign policy and its refusal to behave in an inclusive or consensual manner
Tom, England

It would be foolish not to take some precautions

Tom, Canada
I certainly hope so. One has to consider not only the terrible loss of life that would result from a nuclear assault, but also the even more terrible US nuclear response that must necessarily follow. Remembering that, poorly named though it may be, the countries comprising Bush's Axis of Evil all have one thing in common: they seem to be developing nuclear weapons but aren't being absolutely clear about their intentions or capabilities. I think it would be foolish not to take some precautions.
Tom, Canada

So Bush now wants our country to become a primary target in order to protect his country and our government is ok with that are they? Why can't we just for once, stand up to that aggressive country and tell them to get lost!
Frankie, UK

Frankie, UK: I wonder what you would think if there was no USA to kick around and you were left alone to deal with the terrorists, not just in your own country, but worldwide? Come, now, we all need each other if we are to keep the freedoms our forefathers so desperately fought for and attained.
Brenda, USA

Brenda, USA: So we all need each other do we? Britain needs to be involved with the SOSW project like it needs a hole in the head! The chances of terrorist attack by ICBM are virtually nil. This is nothing but a costly PR exercise to make western citizens believe something is being done. Personally, I think the best way to avoid terrorist attack in the first place is to not ally oneself with the US, and not cripple entire Muslim societies with sanctions and sustained bombings. I refer of course to Iraq.
Andy, UK

The whole thing smells like last year's solution to last decade's problem

John Small, UK
It's obviously unlikely that any state would attempt to attack the US with missiles when there are so many easier, cheaper and less detectable ways of doing things. The whole thing smells like last year's solution to last decade's problem. But from GWB's point of view it pays a dividend to his investors and makes the dimmer members of the US electorate think they are safer.
John Small, UK

We should we only accept it on condition that they shoot down any missiles headed our way too. They should be more concerned with why they feel people want to fire missiles at them, not what to do once they're already airborne.
Adrian, UK

How can a ballistic missile shield make your country safer if your country is not protected by it and only hosts equipment on it to protect another country? Well that's what the British government wants to sign us up to. It seems Doctor Strangelove is alive and well in the British and American governments.
James Newman, UK

Bombs will come by hand because the UK is now part of the imperialist US movement

KFR, UK
Bombs will not come by missile. Bombs will come by hand. They will come because the UK is now part of the imperialist US movement. The only real chance of defending this godforsaken country lies in reviewing its foreign policy, throwing out all the double standards and embracing the civil liberties of our enemies as much as we embrace those of our friends.
KFR, UK

In principle, I am in favour of a ballistic missile defence. But as the US has become such a liability since Bush came to power and the UK will not be protected by this system, we are going to become the target for any groups wanting to clear the way for a nuclear attack on the US.
Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

Right or wrong, the reality is that the US has become the world's policeman, and despite their sometimes gung-ho approach to things, the world is a better place for it. Our relationship with them is something that I think is going to wane with the increasing evidence of mismanagement and ineptitude that our government shows.
Gary Shaw, England

We have to keep more than one step ahead of the game

Joe, Oman
Yes it would be a very good idea. We have to keep more than one step ahead of the game with any act of war or terrorism.
Joe, Oman

Firstly, does it work? I've yet to hear anything good about this technology. Secondly, does it actually help to defend the UK in any way - or just North America? Thirdly, is anyone in our government actually going to let parliament (or the people) voice their opinion on this? Or will it just be discreetly rushed through to keep GWB happy? I don't have high hopes for any of these things.
J White, UK

It doesn't really matter. This government is too much of a US puppet to say no.
Greg Heywood, UK

The scheme is just a propaganda ploy to reassure the US public that everything is okay

Julian Hayward, UK
It is naive in the extreme to assume that terrorists will attack the US by firing missiles across the Atlantic - such a construction would be impossible to hide from surveillance satellites and the US would be invading before it was even half-built. The scheme is just a propaganda ploy to reassure the US public that everything is okay, when the reality is they are almost defenceless against a determined individual with a briefcase-sized weapon.
Julian Hayward, UK

Strange how our 'special relationships' always end up being special for someone else! We will be extending the US' missile protection while getting none of the benefits ourselves - unless the US plans to station ABMWs on British soil. But then again, remember Greenham Common!
Steve, UK

Anything that is associated with the US, especially in a military capacity, will undoubtedly increase the possibility of the UK being a target for terrorists. We should be independent from US influences. The US is rapidly becoming the rogue state of the world, and we should make it clear that we will not be used as a satellite of US military expansion.
Dave P, UK

Anything the USA does against terrorism will benefit the entire democratic free world

Agha Ata, USA
Anything the USA does against terrorism is eventually going to benefit the entire democratic free world. On the other hand not doing anything would certainly cause the danger to spread worldwide, Great Britain included.
Agha Ata, USA

Of course not. Carrying a shield for someone else just makes you more of a target.
Simon Richardson, UK

Yes, let the US get it's shield and then they can rule the world. What garantee do we have that the next step for the US is not to attack the rest of the world it hasn't attacked yet?
Stefan, Canada

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14 Dec 02 | Politics
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