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15. What views have recent administrations had regarding a national missile defense system?Submitted by MikeChalberg on Mon, 2012-03-05 12:08
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Reagan began the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983. Its goal was to completely protect the U.S. from any possible Soviet attack. This received considerable debate in Congress before a partisan passing. Despite this new program, the U.S. was allowed to remain part of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.
The Clinton administration kept a missile defense program, but made it a bit less ambitious and shifted focus to preventing acts of terrorism from small groups or a rogue nation.
In 1999 the United Nations passed a resolution calling for the end of the U.S. national missile defense system and the continuation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In 2002, after some debate, the U.S. decided to withdraw from the treaty and further develop missile defense technology.
The Bush administration began to seek military bases for missile defense throughout Europe. Several tests were run but few were successful. Over the last decade there has been substantial criticism over the large and expanding budget for missile defense combined with its very modest successes in long-range defense. Moreover, the recent initiative to install the missile “shield” in Eastern Europe has irked Russian leaders, at least enough for Putin to threaten the onset of another Cold War. Despite this and significant public objection in Poland and the Czech Republic, an agreement for a defensive shield between the U.S. and Poland was signed in 2008. However, the agreement was thrown out by the Obama administration in 2009.
President Obama also signed the New START Treaty with Russia in 2010. Some argue that the New START Treaty limits the United States' ability to develop missile defense technology. (To learn more about START, click here.) He would like to see a world free of nuclear weapons. In response to Iran, he signed the Iran Sanctions Act in 2011. Not without controversy, President Obama cancelled programs to place missile defense interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.
Many Republicans, including most of those vying for the 2012 presidential nomination, argue that it is necessary to return to a strong missile defense system like those proposed under Reagan and Bush. Mitt Romney strongly criticized New START for limiting America's ability to develop missile defense systems. Newt Gingrich believes the U.S. must have a strong missile defense and is also a very outspoken opponent of New START. He argues that China, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan all pose considerable threats to U.S. interests and safety. Ron Paul believes U.S. policy on nuclear power is hypocritical. He disagrees with the national missile defense system due to its expense amongst other reasons.