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September 27, 2001 Missle shield is still relevant



Julian Schofeld

“Nothing has changed” in the missile defense shield issue, says Julian Schofeld, a professor in the Department of Political Science.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Frank Kuin

The terrorist attacks in the United States have provided a new rationale for the Bush administration to go ahead with its controversial National Missile Defense Shield, says Concordia’s Julian Schofeld, who has been involved in studies into such a shield at the U.S. Pentagon.
Allowing that a missile shield “won’t help” against attacks like that of Sept. 11, Schofeld, a new full-time professor in the Political Science Department, argues that “it will help retaliation, which will deter further attacks.”

The debate about a missile shield has been repositioned since hijacked passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon two weeks ago, prompting U.S. politicians and analysts to rethink North American defense needs. The hot-button issue of a ‘Star Wars’ project has suddenly been overshadowed by near-unanimous calls for an American-led “War on Terrorism.”

Rethinking defense needs
Disagreement has raged about whether a multi-billion-dollar missile shield, designed to intercept hostile missiles headed for the United States, is of any use in facing down emerging threats to continental security. Some commentators have claimed that the scheme, until recently a priority of the Bush administration, would have proven worthless during the terrorist attack.

But according to Schofeld, an expert on arms races and arms control, “nothing has changed” in the missile shield issue. In fact, the scheme “is very complimentary to the need to retaliate against terrorism,” he said, explaining that it enables the Americans “to project themselves into other countries without having the threat of nuclear retaliation.”

Thus, a shield would keep the U.S. ahead in the race for freedom of military action, Schofeld explained. “When you want to go retaliate against these people, they can’t stop you,” he said. “You land off their shore, they fire missiles, you shoot them down and you bomb them. So it does in fact contribute to security.”

Schofeld should know. The MA graduate in public administration at Concordia has returned as a faculty member after completing his PhD at Columbia University, a six-year undertaking that included consultations at the U.S. Pentagon about the plans for a National Missile Defense Shield.

Schofeld was the only Canadian in a group of academics hired by the Pentagon to analyze scenarios that might result from not building a shield, building a small one and building a large one. Specifically, he addressed the question of what a decision to build would mean for the existing Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the Americans and the Russians, a 1972 product of the Cold War. “I still think a national missile defense is a good idea from a tactical perspective,” said Schofeld, who achieved the rank of captain in the Canadian army. Vulnerability to so-called “rogue states” remains a concern, as well as a potential standoff with China in the coming decades. “A terrorist attack is not going to derail that,” he said.

Besides, critics of the missile shield are looking at the terrorist attack the wrong way, he added. “At least these terrorists decided to attack us with airplanes and not by firing a [nuclear] missile,” Schofeld said. “There are options that will be foreclosed by the presence of the system.”

Yet, he added, implementation is years away because the technology is not yet ready. “The Americans will not have a working system for at least 10 to 15 years,” Schofeld said. “Anyone can stick missiles in the ground. But you’re not going to be able to shoot one missile, let alone 10, for the next 15 years.”