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 Concordias Julian Schofeld, who has
been involved in studies into such a shield at the U.S. Pentagon.
Allowing that a missile shield wont 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
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 cant 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 youre not going to be able to shoot one missile,
let alone 10, for the next 15 years.