"A website with close ties to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has outlined why it would be acceptable to kill all Jews and annihilate Israel."
Since the early days of the Cold War the United States has faced the threat of a nuclear attack on America's homeland. With nuclear technology having dramatically improved over the last fifty years, bombs several times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are being produced. And, missile development has enabled at least a handful of nations (pg. 20) to send nuclear armed warheads halfway around the world.
Currently, the United States, Russia and China all have long range missile systems. But to many, the truly unsettling development comes from rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, which are continually increasing their ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities. Each nation already possesses short- and medium-range ballistic missiles able to reach key American allies. It is only a matter of time before the technology improves enough to use inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a massive range. In light of these military advances and current diplomacy between the United States and its adversaries, the issue of a national missile defense system must be examined.
The U.S. developed an initial missile defense system as part of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in the 1980s. Though it has seen numerous name changes and wavering support from Washington, the system is still in place. The ultimate goal of this technology is to stop any type of missile attack aimed at the United States. Making this task especially challenging is the number of methods and variables that can be used in a nuclear attack. For instance, detection can be difficult, multiple weapons can be sent at one time, and the trajectory and height can vary.
In spite of the new technology's inauspicious start in the 80s and 90s, recent tests have had a higher success rate. There have been numerous ICBMs successfully targeted and destroyed in the last several years. Yet, the current program is not able to stop all types of attacks. It is because of this fact that the debate over missile defense continues.
Proponents of a strong defense system argue that any technology to prevent a nuclear attack must be made a top priority. With Iran and North Korea developing long-range missiles, further funding and research are urged. Some opponents though point to its high costs and relative lack of success, arguing that the missile defense budget could be better used elsewhere. Moreover, they argue, a missile defense system violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), perhaps alienating some fellow members or creating some tenuous foreign relations. Finally, some claim that other methods of nuclear delivery are more pressing threats.
Given the current international situation, the United States has many questions to evaluate and decide. Does the U.S. shoulder the full burden for missile defense in allied nations? Should the United States try to involve other nations (e.g. Poland and Czech Republic)? How much money should be allocated to this part of defense? Should the country engage in another "arms race" that may result from developing a unilateral missile defense system?
This article will present, among other things, the current status of the missile defense system, the missile technology of America's adversaries, and the opposing arguments in this debate. As our country's leaders are faced with some difficult and serious decisions, it is imperative that individuals are thoroughly informed on all aspects of the topic.
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