Representative Doug Lamborn (R–CO), member of the House Armed Services Committee, continues to pursue this vision on Capitol Hill. Lamborn, co-chair of the Missile Defense Caucus, was inspired by Reagan’s leadership to protect the peace through a strong missile defense program, and reminded the nation in a Politico article that there are growing missile and nuclear proliferation risks to national security.
It is past time to act. Reagan argued that a defensive shield like the SDI—a combination of both ground-based and space-based systems—would actually rid the world once and for all of nuclear missiles.
The Obama Administration has upped missile defense while simultaneously cutting funding for the Standard Missile-3 program despite the confrontational rhetoric, missile tests, and nuclear tests from North Korea. It is important to remember that this is a reversal of previous Administrations’ policy. Obama pushed fervently in 2009 for budget cuts to missile defense and reduced the number of Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors planned by the Bush Administration from 44 to 30. In spite of reinstating 14 interceptors in Alaska now, Obama continues to cut the U.S. missile defense program. North Korean missiles are not the only threat to U.S. national security.
When it takes only 33 minutes for a missile to reach the United States from anywhere in the world, it would be a folly to cut back missile defense. Critics today still decry missile defense as fantasy, impossible to achieve, and never likely to work. While the SDI was pejoratively called “Star Wars” in Reagan’s time, now missile defense is called a leftover from the Cold War and obsolete. This is simply not the case.
Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the enemies of America remain on the march. North Korea’s missiles can reach American soil. Iran is still pursuing a nuclear program and “could develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” China is developing a new and more capable generation of ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles.
Opponents have argued since Reagan’s era that strategic defense might encourage a first strike, but there is no greater safeguard to democracy and freedom than a strong defense. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” The U.S. has an obligation to maintain that strength against those who would threaten freedom and that of its allies.
Jordan Harms is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.