Has the World Gone M.A.D.?

By proposing a plan that would protect the United States from a nuclear attack, President George W. Bush has demonstrated that the protection of American citizens is his No. 1 priority.

Bush’s new missile defense program focuses on American security but still keeps international relations in mind. Most notably, it looks to effectively abolish the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The treaty currently prevents either country from building any kind of shield against nuclear weapons.

The new plan, if implemented, would set up an intricate system of ballistic missiles from land, air, sea and space to destroy potentially devastating nuclear weapons fired at the United States. In addition, Bush has said that he plans to significantly reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal.

It is still uncertain when and if the program will be put into effect and whether it will actually be effective, but it is clear that something has to be done to relieve the tension caused by the potential for nuclear warfare and that it will be necessary to revise the ABM treaty or create a new one altogether.

Challenging the flawed negotiations that ended the Cold War and kept the world in a precariously uneasy respite from nuclear threat, Bush’s plan takes a much-needed step in the right direction toward both national security and healthier international relations.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the ABM treaty has become outdated and irrelevant. Though the treaty put a temporary halt to the so-called “”arms race”” and the immediate threat of nuclear warfare, it did so by way of seriously inverted logic.

The key point of reasoning in the treaty has fittingly become known as M.A.D. — “”mutually assured destruction.”” For decades, we have been living unprotected with the idea that other countries have the ability to eradicate us, but they do not simply because they know that we can do the same to them.

Therefore the only defense we have against complete annihilation is the fact that we have the same potential to counterattack in the event that anyone actually does fire at us. We build bombs as a bluff — a vulgar display of power that means nothing because we know other countries have the same power to kill us.

The Bush administration realizes the absurdity of this shaky agreement, and is currently negotiating to revise the ABM treaty.

“”To maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and our allies and friends, we must seek security based on more than the grim premise that we can destroy those who seek to destroy us,”” Bush said in a May 1 speech given at the National Defense University in Washington.

Although the actual missile defense program is still very rough and by no means complete or ready for implementation, Bush makes the good point that the current policy is illogical and does not provide adequate protection for any country. What is important now is for lines of communication to remain open so that all parties involved can help to comfortably eliminate the possibility of nuclear warfare over time.

There is a fear that Bush’s program will come off as overly aggressive, and possibly spark a new race to build more nuclear weapons. Whether this occurs depends on how we handle the situation. As long as the United States continues to communicate with and not alienate other countries, common sense will prevail — nobody wants a nuclear holocaust. Rather than watch others stockpile bombs that we are defenseless against, we should strive to have everybody stop building bombs altogether.

The ABM treaty was built upon the residue of distrust and suspicion left over from the Cold War. Using its convoluted logic, being defenseless is the way to be safe and building defense systems is an act of aggression. Therefore we keep each other in check by keeping offensive weapons that we never use.

As Bush said, this is a rather grim and pessimistic plan. Hopefully, our leaders can come to a consensus and update this treaty together before the confusion and uncertainty get out of hand. A new trust must be created from a new foundation.

As Bush said, “”We should work together to replace this treaty with a new framework that reflects a clear and clean break from the past and especially from the adversarial legacy of the Cold War.””

President Bush has shown that he is dedicated to his country, and not only that, he has also shown that the United States will not waver indecisively in the middle ground, and will not compromise logic for the sake of sitting still.

All too often, politicians are forced into irrational positions by trying to satisfy everyone. Before Bush, the Clinton administration also made an attempt to create a missile defense system but was hindered by the ABM treaty. The proposed new plan lets the world know that the United States will not jeopardize its citizens to pacify other countries.

The time has come to make a change to the treaty. It is a sensitive issue, but let’s hope that Bush’s decisiveness garners the respect and cooperation that it deserves.

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