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Cruise Control: A Case for Missile Defense

Michael E. O’Hanlon

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have reshaped whole swaths of debate over U.S. foreign and national security policies. Certainly, the issue of homeland security is a case in point. In that context, it was inevitable that the various partisans and detractors of national missile defense, and those with contending views of how homeland security should be organized, would use the September 11 tragedy as evidence for their particular position. And they have. For example, those who have held the very idea of national missile defense to be a form of inanity—if not insanity—have argued that since no imaginable deployment of national missile defenses could have prevented the September 11 tragedy, this proves how bad an idea it is. This is a little like arguing that if a person has purchased homeowner?s insurance, he or she has no need for auto or life or medical insurance. The dangers to the security of a nation are multiple, no less than the dangers to the security of individuals.

That said, it does not follow that all kinds of insurance policies are equally necessary or that all insurance products are equally wise and cost-effective investments. All such policies and products require study, for nations no less than for individuals. Many such studies are going forward. But while there are ongoing and fairly well-rehearsed debates afoot over homeland security organization and national missile defense, one area that has slipped through the cracks of public consciousness concerns defense against cruise missiles. The analysis that follows represents a study of the technical requirements and costs of a defense against cruise missiles.

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