Ballistic Missile Defense Would Protect US

The author of the Opinion page article ``Americans in the Dark on Defense,'' Aug. 31, notes that Americans are sorely misinformed on ballistic missile defense issues. But he gives the public only part of the story.

The author presents a distortion to the public, namely that ``no country can protect itself from ICBM attack.'' Despite allegations of test fraud, after investigation it has been proven that the ``faked Star Wars test'' reported in the media was not faked. It was a successful test, demonstrating the ability to shoot down a warhead in space. Since 1984, other tests have duplicated this ability. The technology exists to defend ourselves. We need only common sense and the political will to use it.

The author perpetuates another myth about missile defense, that ``the US could still be attacked by low-flying cruise missiles or suitcase bombs.''

Ballistic missile defense is not meant to defend against these threats, just as attack submarines are not designed to stop terrorist truck bombs; moreover, there are other means for defending against these threats. Yet we still have not permitted ourselves to deploy a defense against ballistic missiles.

The Antiballistic Missile Treaty does little to protect the nation against the threat of proliferation, yet it is constantly relied upon as the cornerstone of ``strategic stability.'' The 20 or more developing nations with ballistic missiles and missile programs, and the half-dozen or more with nuclear weapons programs really don't care about the ABM Treaty, or SALT I and II, or START, or any other arms control regime.

Certainly, there are ways that, as he says, ``morality and law could temper anarchy to mutual advantage.'' But morality and law are small comfort when the despots rattle their sabers and the sirens wail. John Cunningham, Arlington, Va. Press Secretary, High Frontier

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