For six years now, the Claremont Institute, working with leading national security experts, elected officials, and citizens, has pointed to the danger of ballistic missile attack and the need for a missile defense. We hear now, with some satisfaction, that President Bush will soon give the Russians six-month notice of his intention to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that prevents missile defense. But notice of withdrawal is not withdrawal and missile defense is still far from a reality.
The very act of giving this notice is, of course, no small feat. Not even Presidents Reagan and the elder Bush could bring themselves to do it. Such a move flies in the face of all respectable elite opinion, from the New York Times and the Union of Concerned Scientists, to the devotees of arms control and disarmament in Congress and in America's universities. President Bush has proven again that he will not be bent by the intellectual fashion of the day and will do what he believes right.
The president will be under attack the minute he makes his intentofficial.Â During the six-months between the announcement and the actual withdrawal, much will be done diplomatically and in Congress to keep the U.S. part of the treaty. The Russians and the Chinese will enter negotiations to ensure at minimum that any missile defense system not be designed to stop their arsenals. Congressional opponents will use the budget process to undermine the most promising missile defense programs. And even after withdrawal there will be bitter fights for years to come over missile defense funding and deployment.
Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty is only the first stride of the marathon if an effective missile defense system is to be built. The only proposal under consideration today in Congress and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is a limited defense system that wouldn't be complete until many years from now. But even this system to stop a handful of enemy missiles is not possible as long as the United States remains party to the ABM Treaty.
We should be thankful that President Bush is prepared to take this first important step and when he does, all praise to him. We should also remember everything that is left to be done.