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article imageWill the U.S. missile defense system work?

By Matthew Moran     Jul 2, 2009 in Technology
The threat from North Korea has grown over the last year. The communist state has tested nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. Now North Korea is threatening to attack Hawaii. Will the U.S. missile defense system prevent it?
It depends on who you ask, as to whether or not the national missile defense system known as Ground-Based Midcourse Defense would actually work in the event of a deliberate attack on the United States.
The threat of attack from North Korea has grown undoubtedly. The communist country has successfully detonated another nuclear warhead and test-fired two long-range missiles, as well as several other short range missiles since last October.
Most recently, reports indicate that North Korea may be ready to launch a missile at Hawaii on July 4.
These threats are exactly what the missile defense program is designed to protect against. In its 2009 report, North Korea is specifically mentioned.
It will work
The Missile Defense Agency says they have a defense system "capable of intercepting and destroying a ballistic missile launched from North Korea."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates backs that notion up. He has said the United States is prepared should it be necessary to prevent an attack on the United States.
"We are in a good position," Gates told reporters on June 18th.
It won't work
How good of a position though? According to some, not nearly as good as the U.S. needs to be.
Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, is skeptical of the MDA's ability to shoot down missiles.
In an interview with NPR
last September, Cirincione said the system would "absolutely fail" if it were needed in 2009.
A group of scientists told Congress the same thing in April of 2008.
"The (global missile defense) program offers no prospect of defending the United States from a real-world missile attack and undermines efforts to eliminate the real nuclear threats to the United States," Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, as quoted by the Associated Press.
The debate over funding missile defense continues as well.
Senior fellows with the Heritage Foundation argue that funding missile defense is absolutely necessary.
In a report on missile defense, Heritage argues that "failing to protect ourselves could have consequences and costs that are immeasurably greater than the cost of missile defense."
Others argue that it's impractical to spend money on technology that may not work.
David Kreiger, the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation writes that "US ballistic missile defenses would be ineffective, destabilizing and dangerous. And yet, the US government appears willing to spend another $100 billion or perhaps even much more to deploy such systems. One can only wonder at this “spend now, think later” approach to national security."
The debate is far from over. One can only hope, however, that it remains a debate and not a real-life problem.
More about Missile defense, North korea missile
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