Missile Defense versus Missile Offense: Can You Tell the Difference?
By Walter E. Block - April 20, 2021

All decent people are peaceniks. This holds true always, but especially in a nuclear age, when one misstep, whether on purpose or not, can spell the deaths of not millions but billions of people. It is only a maniacal misanthrope who would not fall under this rubric, but, then, he would hardly be counted as “decent.”

The U.S. government has just registered a successful foray in the direction of peace. For the very first time a long range ICBM was brought down not from a land-based anti-missile defense strike, but from one located on the John Finn, a Navy destroyer. An SM-3 Block IIA missile was effectively used in the test run. Applause, please.

If you expected the disarmament left to appreciate this new breakthrough you would be sadly disappointed. The Union of Concerned Scientists opposes anti-ballistic missiles. One fear is that they will not work; the perpetrator could employ multiple war heads, most of them as decoys. The proper response is a more sophisticated ABM.

Another argument is that if only one country had this technology, others might be tempted to employ a first strike, since the previous safety net, Mutual Assured Destruction, would no longer safeguard the world’s population. In an act of statesmanship probably never before or after equaled, Saint Ronald Reagan offered to share this equipment with the Soviets. If that cannot unambiguously establish the peaceful nature of this initiative, nothing can.

But opposition to the employment of the only alternative to MAD continues. Noam Chomsky goes so far as to characterize the ABM as a “first strike.” No, no, no, the very opposite is the case. The first strike is the offensive missile. The second strike, or the countervailing shield, is the defense.

Another criticism of the ABM is that it is not perfect. Wow. This is surely logical overkill. One could oppose ANY person, institution or technology of mankind on this ground. Bach was not perfect. The fictional Beth Harmon is far from a perfect chess player. No supporter of this defensive missile apparatus ever claimed perfection in its behalf. The perfect is the enemy of the merely good!

To see the problematic nature of this opposition, let us consider the illogic of positing that defensive measures constitute, or at least lead to, more offensive dangers — in other contexts. For example, the bow and arrow, the spear and the sword are all offensive weapons. The shield and body armor are the defensive countermeasures. Can it seriously be contended that the latter caused the former? No, the direction of causation lies in the very opposite direction.  If opponents of the ABM were correct, and logically consistent, they would also oppose the use of body armor and shields. In that direction lies peace?

To shoot a bullet is to be on the offense. To wear bulletproof vests and employ toughened glass is to be on the defense. If opponents of the ABM were correct, and logically consistent, they would also, paradoxically and illogically, favor bullets and oppose these defensive modalities.

If it is illicit to protect ourselves against dangers, maybe we should go barefoot instead of wearing shoes. Engage in nudism during the winter? Stop wearing masking, hand washing and social distancing in the age of Covid?

Go to any basketball game: high school, college, the National Basketball Association. There will be cries not of “defense” but rather, “DEE-FENSE.” The fans, to a man, can readily distinguish the one from the other. (Hint: the home team is on defense when the OTHER team has the ball).

This is something, unfortunately that appears to escape the mostly well-intentioned opponents of defensive missiles. ABMs are capable of countering enemy ICBMs, at least most of them, and this is all to the good, if our goal is to save precious human lives.

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