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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Is the US restarting the arms race?
US President Bill Clinton's proposed plans for a new missile defence system have aroused fears of starting a new arms race.
Nicknamed the "son of Star Wars", the system is intended to protect the US from small-scale attacks from countries like Iran and North Korea.
In an effort to calm fears of another Cold War, Mr Clinton offered to share anti-missile technology with other "civilised nations", including Russia.
However Russia is far from keen on a defence system that it believes might compromise the effectiveness of its own nuclear deterrent.
Should we be doing all we can to protect ourselves against rogue nuclear nations, or does such defensive behaviour hark back to the days of the Cold War?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Rhys Trappett, Australia
The whole world should be covered by this shield, thus protecting every country from a nuclear strike by any others.
The job of the United States military is to protect US citizens, their allies, and our interests. This defence shield is doing just that. It's really that simple. And anyway, the only people who should even care about this are those who want to attack the US.
The US would have everyone believe that it is growing population which is the greatest cause of world-wide poverty. Not so. It is its own policy of reckless high technology arms production alongside other great world powers such as Russia, China and others. With 1 trillion US dollars worth of arms sales annually, no wonder the wealthy nations who produce and sell them get richer, while the other less well-off countries remain indebted and in constant penury. This is the scandal of our times.
The American distinction between "rogue" and "civilised" is largely based on US political propaganda. Intelligent people are well advised not to make it their own. We have seen similar propaganda in past centuries, not only in the US. In most cases it served very dubious purposes. However, unfortunately the situation is not completely different nowadays. It seems that humans have a strong tendency to forget history and to repeat old mistakes.
Ronald F. Titsch, USA
I fear that this is but a manifestation of our return to isolationism and unilateralism. I am truly ashamed that my country seems to think nothing of expecting other warring nations to work together through trust and compromise, while we snub our noses at requests to exercise those same virtues.
The more the technically advanced western civilisations develop and build weapon systems the more widespread it becomes in future.
The reason for the prevailing threat from certain countries is because of our technology falling into their hands.
Of course this action by the US will appear to be seen as being aggressive. Wouldn't the US feel the same way if any other country was to set up this very expensive Star Wars system. Who knows what the future will hold if this futuristic defensive system is set-up. We all need to work together for peace, not isolate ourselves as a means of protection. No good will ever come from this sort of defence. It never worked in the past, why should it work in the future. So, NO to this Star Wars Project, only misunderstandings and bad feelings will come out of it.
If we raise the stakes by developing this next generation star wars technology someone else is bound to build something to defeat it. Where does it end?
Oliver May, UK
The Son of Star Wars debate reflects some of the ugly aspects of American domestic politics. Polls indicate that the American public supports this project so naturally both parties are supportive. What is lost in the domestic debate is that deterrence has already been achieved by America's robust nuclear and conventional arsenal.
How can America be provoking an arms race? No other country could possibly compete at a level to make it a race. All the Russians are doing is making a lot of noise because they're powerless to do anything else.
Genuine return on the dollar (a very popular phrase here in the US) could be more easily found by using the proposed billions of dollars on food instead of more military hardware. Instead of calling countries "rogues" or "uncivilised" it would be much less expensive to feed those people, or provide medical technology and supplies. And it would make those people a whole lot happier.
I am deeply saddened to see the leaders of this country contemplating investing our resources in such a mad fashion.
Robert McCoy, USA
The US has every right to build missiles to defend itself. However, it should stop advocating disarmament to other nations especially ones like mine, India. If a nation like the US needs to strengthen its defence system, I hope it understands that nations like India need to be able to do the same.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is only one "super-power" which imposes its will on any place in the world. These new arms which are meant to protect it from so-called rogue states, can be pointed at any country which does not obey the superpower.
The proposal to build and share a limited missile defence capability is meant to improve security for all. While I can understand the concerns expressed about restarting the cold war, that is neither the goal nor the likely outcome.
Today's world has the potential to be quite dangerous, and the threats to peace are increasing. It is shortsighted, and unfair to simply point at America and call it a warmongering nation that has to continue to feed its military contractors.
As the history of the last century has demonstrated, there are always people willing to take the lives of others for political reasons. (In fact, America itself has been guilty of such acts). That being the true nature of the world, it would be inappropriate for America not to protect its citizens from such attacks.
Adrian Hunt, UK
I don't believe that other countries have anything to worry about unless their future plans are to attack the USA.
A system that would, in effect, render the US immune to nuclear attacks by other countries is all fine and dandy if you look at it from the US side of things. Looking at it from the side that sees the biggest and most powerful nation gain a practical license to do whatever it pleases militarily anywhere in the world without fears of reprisals, does certainly arouse certain apprehension in me.
Brian McQuay, USA
Too many people have worked too hard on arms reduction to have it all thrown away due to US paranoia. Nuclear attacks from rogue states are simply an excuse for the US military to build the missile defence system they were promised during Reagan's presidency. To me, it seems unlikely that any "rogue" country would attempt to attack any one of the major Western nuclear powers. A nuclear reprisal would severely cripple a country like Iran, Iraq or Korea. In other words, the existing Western arsenals should be a sufficient deterrent. I think the real threat is from terrorists backed by the above countries. It doesn't take much to fit a nuclear bomb into a suitcase, and a detonation in a major metropolitan area would be as devastating as any missile attack.
John Walmsley, England, UK
Today, many countries "claim" to have the technical know-how to come up with nuclear weapons. And many more are developing them behind closed doors.Worse, they are passing on this information covertly to others for a fee. I am sure that within no time nuclear weapons will be present everywhere on the planet. In a world where such full-fledged nuclear programmes are under-wraps, treaties don't make much sense. So, I feel that the US is justified in trying to protect itself.
It's a difficult problem to solve. On the one hand we want to get rid of all nuclear weapons, and the best way to do that is to lead by example. On the other, we know we cannot completely control the spread of nuclear technology to other countries and so we need some form of defence.
The proposal for a new (and no doubt improved) missile defence system is ludicrous and simply reveals our moral and intellectual bankruptcy
It's a pity education can't get all this money. There is a greater chance
that something we manufacture will be sold to one of these rogue countries
than of them successfully attacking the US.
I wish the Russians of today would understand that the US has never attacked it and never really has had any plans to attack it. So the Russians need no deterrent because of the US.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland
Pursuing missile defence technologies is sensible, and pursuing the capability to deploy missile defences is reasonable. However, we are pushing Russia (and China) far too hard on this issue. Moscow has already had to swallow Nato expansion. Asking them to just accept a limited-but-expandable national missile defence system at a time when their own nuclear program is a shambles practically guarantees a generation of hostility.
How could poor countries like Iran and North Korea, who find it difficult to feed their population, who lack modern infrastructure, mount and sustain any military attack against the USA? The most any mad dictator could do is organise some bomb explosions or acts of terrorism.
Russia's point is valid. It was only the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that kept the peace in the Cold War. If the Nuclear Deterrent is undermined by an effective defence system then conventional warfare could become more common as the threat to the civilian population is reduced.
I guess its all to do with elections, and the military wanting to keep their huge spending budget really. A suggestion to the American Govt, if you don't antagonise people and mind your own business, then you would see the world and your neighbours on it as less of a threat!
The Cold War with the USSR is over, but new nuclear powers are being born. When there is any chance of the likes of Saddam Hussein getting hold of such technology it would be lunacy not to have defences in place.
The US economy needs war to function properly. There have been many conflicts in which the US was selling arms openly to one side, and secretly to the other. Iran/Iraq is a good example.
In short, the US needs an enemy.
Now, when we want to protect ourselves with a measly 20 defensive missiles, we are castigated as irresponsible warmongers. It's time America quits Nato and leaves our so-called European allies to get back to slaughtering each other as usual.
Tom Hoffman, USA
The new American effort is not against
North Korea and Iran, but against Russia.
Starting from Reagan, Americans never
believed in "new world order" which
Mikhail Gorbachev advocated. Just the
opposite, they wanted to "win" the
The world is changing at an alarming pace, with many countries developing nuclear technology. For the US to remain static in these turbulent and dangerous times is to be ignorant of the real and present consequences of a possible nuclear calamity. With this said, in the interest of world peace, I feel we have an obligation to further our protective technology.
Georgia Metherell, UK
No America is not re-starting the arms race. We are working our way to developing the technology to make nuclear missiles obsolete. Why is that so evil? Why are people so upset that nuclear weapons may become obsolete?
Dan Peters, UK
Obviously, any move back towards the dark days of the Cold War is something to be resisted. However, the sad truth is, that in the new world order much of the "stability" that ensued from two world powers in military and political deadlock, has been replaced by a possibly more dangerous scenario with various smaller, and often unstable nations now able to flex their nuclear muscles. In this case, the US has every right to want to shore up its nuclear defences, and should be congratulated for offering to share the technology involved. At least they seem to have stopped making weapons of aggression.
01 Jun 00 | Europe
Clinton faces Star Wars doubts
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