Alternatives to a national missile-defense system

The article "Forcing a rethink of global security" was quite uncritical of the proposed National Missile Defense (NMD) system (Nov. 12). I seriously doubt that "The concept of a national missile-defense system is supported by most US leaders and military experts." Those who oppose NMD should speak up now.

The sentence "It [the Antiballistic Missile Treaty] was written precisely to prevent a national missile defense, at a time when the risk of retaliation was a standard deterrent" implies that there is no longer any risk of retaliation.

This cold war aberration is still with us, with 5,000 nuclear weapons on a hair-trigger alert ready to launch in a half hour.

NMD could be readily defeated by simple, cheap offensive countermeasures. I also question the value of an NMD system that has failed 14 of its 18 tests to date.

Abolition of all nuclear weapons is vastly less expensive than the estimated $128 billion for NMD and would protect people from nuclear annihilation.

William Santelmann Jr. Lexington, Mass.

In "Forcing a rethink of global security," the writer refers to the prevalent claim that building a national missile-defense shield "is considered the only way to counter rogue states." Here are two other ways:

1. The global monitoring system of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate just voted down, can catch rogues being roguish.

2. Cooperative US-Russia weapons security projects, which Congress is reluctant to fund, can inhibit rogue purchase or theft of weapons systems from the crumbling Rus-sian weapons establishment.

Building a missile-defense shield appears to be an illogical choice. It is technically problematical, very expensive, reactive, conflictive, and inimical to nuclear arms control.

The two alternative measures are technically feasible, relatively inexpensive, proactive, cooperative, and supportive of nuclear arms control.

David E. Leventhal St. Louis, Mo.

Oil-drilling irony

I found Lawrence Davey's reflections on our moral dilemma over where to drill for US oil worthwhile ("America's need for (other people's) oil," Nov. 8).

While protection of most of the East Coast and California from off-shore drilling is a popular effort, our Alaskan congressional contingent and the industry that "owns" them continue their campaign to drill for oil in both the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (NPRA). Both areas are located in the Brooks Range in what are arguably the most fragile wild ecosystems remaining in North America. NPRA was established by Congress as a "reserve" to be saved for American use during an emergency. However, it is about to be drilled by foreign interests and its oil sold to Asian markets.

Jeff Fair Anchorage, Alaska

Common cents

The Home Forum piece, "A penny saved is a treasure earned" was a pleasure to read (Oct. 28). However, we also wish to point out some harder truths about the penny - particularly in light of some recent news reports questioning the utility of the penny.

Pennies account for tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes each year. Many people still count their pennies out of necessity. And, for those who tend to let coins accumulate, remember there are many drives run by charities that will gladly accept your pennies.

Mark W. Weller Washington Executive director, Americans for Common Cents

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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