Junking MAD

Cabinet nominees generally don't say any more than they have to at confirmation hearings. Even those like Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld adhere to the maxim, "less is more." Thus, what they do say or emphasize in their remarks tells us what they consider to be vital. Notably, at Rumsfeld's hearing, he took the opportunity to promote a policy that I believe can restore sanity to our national security policies and deliver us from the moral insanity imposed by a forty-year-old relic of the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). At the hearings, Rumsfeld told senators, "there is no question but that I think that we should deploy a missile defense system when it's technologically possible and effective." Such as system, he said, would enable the U.S. to intercept incoming missiles and shoot them down, instead of relying on the threat of massive retaliation to keep us safe. As has been the case with similar proposals, Rumsfeld was asked about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that the United States signed when I working in the Nixon White House. He called that treaty "ancient history," and questioned the relevance of an agreement signed at the height of the Cold War to the post-Cold War world today. Back then, the only nuclear powers were the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, nations like North Korea, China, Iran, and Iraq are working on missiles that could reach our shores. Rumsfeld's emphasis on missile defense, which obviously reflects Bush's policy, performed a vital service. Over the past few days, I've been telling you how the new administration can exercise its mandate to provide moral leadership. Well, beefing up our missile defense is a great step in doing that. With the Cold War policy of Mutual Assured Destruction, we held the cities of our adversaries hostage, while they held our cities hostage with the threat of nuclear holocaust. Thoughtful people questioned the morality of such a threat, but there wasn't a workable alternative. But as Rumsfeld said last week, a lot has changed since 1972. For one thing, we're the sole superpower. That offers us the freedom to consider whether it's better to defend against an attack rather than threatening to annihilate civilians. Second, defense technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds, thanks to the computer revolution. We now have the potential to develop a system capable of protecting America and her allies. Defensive weapons wouldn't target population centers; so, by definition, they offer a more moral alternative -- one consistent with Augustine's classic definition of a "just war" and the Christian understanding that military response must be defensive. The new administration, which will assume office when the President is inaugurated Saturday, has a chance now to make a case for junking the old, morally bankrupt policy of Mutual Assured Destruction. The case that can overcome the skepticism of its opponents, however, can't be limited to issues of technology and strategic theory. It must have moral component, making the arguments of the Christian doctrine of just war. The American people need to hear the case for change and the moral reasons for it. And more, they need to understand that junking MAD isn't just the safe thing to do, it's the right thing, as well. And that's what moral leadership is all about.


Chuck Colson



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