It is appropriate for the United States to debate and explore the concept of constructing an effective defense against missiles, the so-called ''star wars'' issue. Much controversy now exists as to whether such a defense is technically feasible or politically sound, as noted in a five-part series that concludes starting on Page 1 of today's Monitor.
As President Reagan has acknowledged, it is important that the United States avoid creating the impression that the US is seeking to be able to launch a nuclear first strike, by gaining a strong missile defense system while retaining a powerful offensive nuclear missile system. Even if the US had no such intent, merely creating the impression that it had would of itself be destabilizing. It could tempt an adversary to strike first.
Exploring the idea of building a large and effective system of defending against missiles ought to be done within the framework of the current antiballistic missile treaty of 1972. In addition, the administration should redouble its efforts to gain a resumption of talks with the Soviet Union on the reduction of offensive nuclear arms.
That way there would be no doubt that US intent was to provide military protection to its citizens, and not to threaten any other nation.