AMERICAN MISSILE PROTECTION ACT OF 1998 (Senate - May 13, 1998)

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Mr. FAIRCLOTH. Mr. President, this morning, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on S. 1873, the American Missile Protection Act of 1998. The bill is simple and its purpose can be stated very easily by reciting Section 3 in its entirety. `It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate).'

Everyone knows that it is necessary to first vote to stop endless debate on a bill when a filibuster has been threatened, then, after cloture, we can have limited debate followed by a vote on the bill itself. From this morning's vote, it can be seen that more than 40 percent of my colleagues feel that it should be the policy of the United States to keep our citizens exposed to the risks of a ballistic missile attack.

Mr. President, I know that the Cold War is over. Unfortunately, although some would like to believe otherwise, this does not mean that we are one happy world, where all countries are working in mutual cooperation. It is no time for the United States to let down its guard or to cease doing everything possible to maintain our national security.

The nuclear testing in India this week should shake some sense into those calling for the U.S. to disarm itself of our nuclear deterrent capability, as if that would set an example to the rest of the world. We cannot `uninvent' nuclear weapons everywhere in the world. Therefore, we must do the next best thing--prepare our best defense.

During the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union, we operated under a system known as MAD, for Mutually Assured Destruction. No country, back then, would attack us with a nuclear weapon because there was full realization that it would face certain annihilation because we could and would retaliate in kind, and with greater strength. MAD was never a completely risk-free strategy, though. We had to rely on the hope that other governments would act responsibly and not put their citizens in the path of a direct, retaliatory missile hit. This was the best we could do back then. MAD has outlived its usefulness today because we have the capability to protect ourselves better--we now have the ability to develop defensive technologies that can give us a system that will knock out a ballistic missile before it can land on one of our cities.

It should be clear to everyone that in today's more complicated world the threat of a ballistic missile attack is not confined to a couple of superpowers; there is a greater risk than ever before of a launch against the U.S., either by accident or design, from any of a number of so-called `rogue' nations. And, with the additional risk that chemical or biological weapons can be launched using the same ballistic missile technology as is used for nuclear weapons delivery, the threat is more widespread and we must defend against it.

Without National Missile Defense, there is a greater risk that an incident, even one involving chemical or biological weapons, could escalate into full scale nuclear war. If we must stick with a MAD strategy, we will have to retaliate once we identify a ballistic missile launch at the U.S. It would be much better to eliminate those missiles with a defensive system, and then determine what most appropriate response, diplomatic or military, we would undertake.

Ignoring that National Missile Defense can keep us from an escalating nuclear war, critics of the American Missile Protection Act, through twisted logic, say that if the U.S. builds a defensive capability, this will drive the world closer to a nuclear war. Their argument goes something like this--if we can defend against a ballistic missile attack, there is nothing that will stop us from striking another country first because we no longer have to worry about retaliation. As incredible as it may sound, they say that a National Missile Defense is actually an act of aggression.

In order to buy into such an argument, however, you have to first assume that the United States has been standing by, waiting to take over the world with its nuclear defensive arsenal, but the Soviet bear kept us in our cage. You would have to believe that Americans have been so intent on spreading democracy around the world that we would attack any country that would not adopt our free system of government and force democracy upon its peoples.

No, Mr. President, building a National Missile Defense is not an act of aggression that would free us up to launch an unprovoked attack on other countries. It is an act of common sense in a dangerous world.

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