Strategic Weapons: August 9, 2000


Critics of the National Missile Defense system have noted, with some hysteria, that because of the short response time to incoming missiles, the decision to fire an interceptor will almost certainly be made by a colonel or brigadier general in a control bunker, not by the civilian leadership. This, the critics argue, is an unthinkable deviation from the principle of civilian control since a military officer could "take the country to war" before the President knew we were under attack. The criticism seems a bit disconnected from reality, as the National Missile Defense system could not attack any other country, nor could it engage an innocent satellite that would already be too high for its interceptors to reach. Not to mention that if a nuclear missile needs to be intercepted, the technical question of being in a state of war has become largely moot.--Stephen V Cole


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