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Chicago Tribune Op-Ed: Time To Recommit To Missile Defense

Op-Ed

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Time To Recommit To Missile Defense

During the 2008 presidential campaign, much was made of the "3 a.m. moment" -- how would a president respond to a sudden international crisis? After North Korea's recent nuclear test, its continuing short-range ballistic missile tests and news of a possible test of a long-range missile capable of reaching American targets in Japan, Guam and even Alaska and Hawaii, President Barack Obama finds himself confronted with a real-life 3 a.m. moment.

How his administration responds will have a significant impact on our national security. Iran, Syria, Venezuela and even China and Russia are keeping close watch to see if the U.S. blinks in the face of North Korea's latest belligerence. So are our allies. Our response will have global consequences, particularly in light of the administration's apparent intent to engage in bilateral talks with Iranian officials, despite Iran's ambition to become a regional nuclear power.

Any attempt to do the same with the North Koreans risks giving the world the impression that the U.S. is softening its long-standing policy of not legitimizing our enemies' ambitions by joining them at the negotiating table. And it risks giving our enemies the impression that our government is willing to grant them a pass as they amass more weapons aimed at harming us or our allies -- weapons and technology they can use or, more ominously, sell to the highest bidder.

That's why it is imperative that President Obama respond to the North Korea 3 a.m. moment with swiftness and certainty.

North Korea's brazen act of aggression should strengthen our resolve for a tougher, smarter national security strategy that includes a multilayered missile defense system that protects our military personnel deployed in our country's defense as well as citizens here at home.

I urge the president to reverse his opposition to a national missile-defense system. While I have been a strong supporter of his strategies for Iraq and Afghanistan, I have been disappointed by his decision to gut missile defense funding in his Defense Department budget proposal.

Instead of supporting a "national" missile defense system that would protect our citizens from a potential attack, the administration proposes a "theater" system that would protect just the troops in a given part of the world, leaving our shores vulnerable. That's the national-security equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight and it puts us in greater danger should North Korea continue building its nuclear program. A reinvigorated national missile defense system would remind our enemies that regardless of who occupies the White House, America's commitment to its security is not negotiable.


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