Committee Of Correspondence

How to Defend America Against Missile Attack

Herb Stein
2:28 p.m.  Friday  7/12/96

For me to try to judge the preceding discussion and award the prize would be presumptuous. I would, however, like to note five points that impressed me:

1. The gap between Slocombe and Perle on strategic defense is apparently not large, since Perle does not insist on deployment by 2003 and Slocombe plans to be ready to deploy by that year.

2. All are agreed on the need for further development of theater defenses, although there is some disagreement or, at least, unclarity about the desired urgency and scale of that development.

3. Nothing under consideration here is very expensive, so the budget should not be a controlling factor in decisions.

4. Nobody is talking about highly exotic defenses requiring large and uncertain research efforts.

5. Policy decisions seem to hinge significantly on uncertain assumptions about the behavior of the rogue states and the Russians. How rational are the rogue states and how irrational are the Russians?

I believe that we have helped our readers to see what the issues are in the missile-defense debate that will go on during this year’s election campaign and probably for long after that, and I thank the panelists for the time and thought they have devoted to the discussion.

Next week we will discuss “Making Social Security Secure.” Our expert panelists will be:

  • Henry Aaron, senior fellow in the economic studies program at the Brookings Institution;
  • Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb.;
  • Richard Thau, executive director of Third Millennium;
  • Carolyn Weaver, director of Social Security and pension studies at the American Enterprise Institute.