The Son of Star Wars — Australia beware!
by M Mifsud The United States wants to build a "Star Wars" type of nuclear defence system, now dubbed the "Son of Star Wars" because of it being a descendent of the discredited concept from the Reagan years. "Son of Star Wars", officially known as National Missile Defence (NMD for short), was revived during the Clinton administration and is now being pushed hard by the Bush administration, despite protests from nearly all US allies. The exceptions to these are a small island state in the Pacific Ocean and — you guessed it — Australia! The US's yen for an NMD system threatens a number of treaties which are crucial in the nuclear arms control and reduction process. Threatened are the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), No Nuclear Weapons in Space Treaty and most importantly the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties. The most crucial of these are the Strategic Arms Reduction series of Treaties, otherwise referred to as START 1, START 2 and START 3. This series of Treaties represents the very instruments of reduction of the nuclear arsenals of the two major nuclear powers — Russia and the US. START 1 was completed in 1999/2000 bringing about the dismantling of many nuclear weapons of the two powers. START 2 and START 3 are HOPEFULLY — yet to come, with the aim of reducing to as close to Zero as possible the number of weapons possessed by Russia and the US. At the conclusion of START 1 sometime in 1999/2000, Russia and the US began negotiations for START 2. These were in progress when alarming rumours of the US's intentions regarding NMD began to filter onto the world scene. Together with the Republican controlled US Senate's refusal to endorse the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), this spelled disaster for nuclear arms reduction. After some hesitation due to the NMD rumours, Russia ratified START 2, and called upon the US also to ratify it — and this is where this initiative now appears to rest in Limbo. Russia has now stated that if the US proceeds with NMD, it would withdraw from START 2 and START 3, restarting production of nuclear weapons as did China with India and Pakistan hedging their bets — thus igniting a new and wider nuclear arms race. Another prominent affect of NMD relates to the concepts of (Mutually Assured Destruction" and "First Strike Capability". The much vaunted (Mutually Assured Destruction" strategy — or MAD for short — is the acronym for a bilateral strategy which revolved around the theory that the two main nuclear powers were armed in such a fashion as to ensure mutual destruction of both powers (unfortunately taking the rest of humanity with them) the instant that one or the other of the powers unleashed the first nuclear attack. For many years whilst referring to the MAD theory, the US particularly and the USSR probably, tried hard to achieve by various means what is referred to as "First Strike Capability". (The former Soviet Union repeatedly declared that it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons — Ed.) This strategy seeks to subvert the intentions of the MAD concept — in short the intention was to be capable of the FIRST and ONLY nuclear strike upon the enemy with no, or at least little, opportunity for a return strike by the "enemy". Thus "the enemy" would be wiped out leaving the power achieving the "First Strike" in a winner takes all situation. The NMD, as now proposed by the US, seeks to achieve virtually a "First Strike" situation by at least the two following scenarios: * Any intended strike — ostensibly by "renegade" states would be intercepted and destroyed by NMD, thus leaving the US free to wipe out said "renegade" state by a return strike * the US thus achieving First and Only strike. The US is able to launch a nuclear strike relying on its NMD to wipe out any return strike launched in defence. In this way the US would once again achieve "First Strike". Any state achieving "First Strike " would be in an absolutely unassailable position to the extent that it would be able to extort and blackmail other national interests with impunity. This is one of the main concerns that Russia and China and others are expressing. Despite the many billions of dollars already expended and the many billions more intended to be expended — there is no guarantee that NMD would work. The history of the original "Star Wars" of the Reagan years was fraught with a number of major and a myriad of smaller technical problems. Attempts to build the system were so costly that after the expenditure of many billions together with the many technical problems , "Star Wars" was abandoned. However the industry lobby was not so easily put off and after the expenditure of billions of dollars greasing the palms of Congress the "Son of Star Wars" was spawned during the Clinton administration. So how has this new "Son of Star Wars" fared in its more modern setting and how does this help determine whether the system will work? Well, several of its major tests have already failed, the most recognisable one occurring during the end of the Clinton era when this administration was compelled to call it off and pass it on to the Bush administration which, as we know has embraced NMD with full-blooded fervour. To the NMD's long history of technical failure and unimaginable financial requirements must be added the final indignity! Even if they can get NMD up and running, it is widely known that the entire kit and caboodle can be frustrated simply and VERY cheaply by the launching of decoy missiles which would confuse NMD technology into destroying the empty decoys, thus being depleted for the real attack which would follow. This is attested to by many failures during the Iraqi War of the PATRIOT system — NMD being partly based upon this system. Australia's intended role in the US's sordid NMD plan is not a passive one as the US needs the facilities at Pine Gap in Central Australia to operate NMD. These facilities are required to contact and remotely operate NMD equipment orbiting in space. However, the story does not end there, since the current facilities at Pine Gap are outdated and must be upgraded by installing Space Based Infra Red Systems (SIBS). Here the question arises — apart from the indignity of being forced into a lap dog situation once again will Australia also be forced to bear a financial cost in the upgrading? In the event the NMD goes ahead, any intending assailant of the US would probably first proceed to destroy NMD capabilities. Given Australia's active NMD role through the use of Pine Gap facilities, this most probably would mean the targeting of Pine Gap. Australia would be made a target for nuclear weapons after the relief and great hope we felt when nuclear disarmament had become a distinct possibility. Our hopes may well evaporate if Australia goes along like a lamb with NMD, not only will it be complicit in a new nuclear arms race but it will be a target for a nuclear first strike.