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The Bush Administration’s decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty is both unnecessary and unwise. It is ironic that as we rediscover the need for international cooperation, we are taking an action almost universally opposed by our allies. And our allies are not the only ones who support the ABM treaty: Scientists are nearly unanimous in calling national missile defense unworkable. It is distressing that President Bush has chosen to listen to the demagoguery of missile-defense enthusiasts instead of to the wisdom of America’s brightest scientists.
In a letter to Congress sent a month ago, fifty-one American Nobel Laureates in the sciences, addressing the technical feasibility of NMD, wrote: “While ‘hitting a bullet with a bullet’ under laboratory conditions is feasible, it is far more difficult to design a system that can survive and provide effective protection against a surprise attack that employs varying countermeasures, some of which may surprise the defense. The inherent advantages of the offense exceed the advantages of superior American technology.”
President Bush has lost focus on where his priorities should be. The President must invest at least as much energy into securing loose nuclear materials as he has into pushing missile defense. If not, at the end of this road we will find terrorists with nuclear weapons.
We must remember, however, that the declaration is merely one of intent – America has not yet actually withdrawn from the ABM treaty. The next six months will be crucial in determining America’s future security. FAS urges Congress to act vigorously against ABM treaty withdrawal. FAS also calls on Russia, China, and other states to renew their commitments to multilateral arms control and nonproliferation.
America has always sought to lead the world by example. Yet if other countries were to follow the example we have just set, the framework of international law would disintegrate.
President Bush has just released NMD’s first shot, and it has landed squarely in the heart of American security.
Scientists who built the first atomic bomb founded the Federation of American Scientists in 1945. More than half of the current American Nobel Laureates today serve on the FAS Board of Sponsors. FAS conducts research, analysis, and advocacy on public policy issues created by advances in science and technology (see www.fas.org).