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Ballistic Missile Defence and post-Cold War American Foreign Policy: Origins, Influences and Motives
Unformatted Document Text:  Paul Chamberlain – London School of Economics – ISA 2004 ## email not listed ## 11 concept found itself subject to rigorous examination on both its feasibility and its financial cost. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence Robert S. McNamara would become the bete noire of the missile defence establishment, and a dogged opponent of the program but paradoxically oversaw the greatest period of BMD funding and support up to that point. This provides one of the deepest mysteries of missile defence, its ability to continue and indeed thrive, in even the seemingly least conducive political, economic, or military circumstances. McNamara followed the previous administrations line, and continued to recommend Nike-Zeus not be deployed but remain primarily a research program (to the tune of $270m in 1962). His testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 4 April 1961 summed up the arguments of the proponents of missile defence: “Successful development [of Nike-Zeus] may force an aggressor to expend additional resources to increase his ICBM force. It would also make accurate estimates of our defensive capabilities more difficult for a potential enemy and complicate the achievement of a successful attack. Furthermore, the protection that it would provide, even if for only a portion of our population, would be better than none at all.” 23 However, McNamara justified the non-deployment thus: “There is still considerable uncertainty as to its technical feasibility and, even if successfully developed, there are many serious operating problems yet to be solved. The system, itself, is vulnerable to ballistic missile attack, and its effectiveness could be degraded by the use of more sophisticated ICBMs screened by multiple decoys. Saturation of the target is another possibility as ICBMs become easier and cheaper to produce in coming years. Finally, it is a very expensive system in relation to the degree of protection that it can furnish.” 24 Amidst all this, the US missile defence program came under further pressure when it was revealed that the Soviet Union had completed the first successful interception of a warhead in March 1961. 25 Indeed, the Soviet Union had made several candid public statements on its missile defence capacity. At the 1961 Communist Party Congress, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky stated, “the problem of destroying enemy missiles in flight has been successfully resolved.” 26 In 1962, Nikita Khrushchev made his celebrated statement lauding the Soviet militaries’ ability to “hit a fly in space”. 27 Subsequently, it was discovered that the Soviet Union had deployed the first ballistic missile defence around Leningrad by the times, although it was abandoned in 1962. However, by 1965, a 23 House of Representatives, Department of Defense Appropriations for 1962: Hearings Before a Subcommittee on Appropriations, 87 th Cong., 1 st sess., 1961, pt. 3:16-17.; from Adams p.45 24 Adams p.45 25 Missile Defense Milestones, Missile Defense Agency website, US Department of Defense, www.acq.osd.mil/bmdo/bmdolink/html/milstone.html (nov 2002) 26 Sayre Stevens, “The Soviet BMD Program”, in Ashton B. Carter & David N. Schwartz (eds), Ballistic Missile Defense, The Brookings Institution: Washington, DC, 1984, p.194 27 Ibid.

Authors: Chamberlain, Paul.
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Paul Chamberlain – London School of Economics – ISA 2004 ## email not listed ##
11
concept found itself subject to rigorous examination on both its feasibility and its
financial cost. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence Robert S. McNamara would become the
bete noire of the missile defence establishment, and a dogged opponent of the program
but paradoxically oversaw the greatest period of BMD funding and support up to that
point. This provides one of the deepest mysteries of missile defence, its ability to
continue and indeed thrive, in even the seemingly least conducive political, economic, or
military circumstances.

McNamara followed the previous administrations line, and continued to recommend
Nike-Zeus not be deployed but remain primarily a research program (to the tune of
$270m in 1962). His testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 4 April 1961
summed up the arguments of the proponents of missile defence:
“Successful development [of Nike-Zeus] may force an aggressor to expend
additional resources to increase his ICBM force. It would also make accurate
estimates of our defensive capabilities more difficult for a potential enemy and
complicate the achievement of a successful attack. Furthermore, the protection
that it would provide, even if for only a portion of our population, would be better
than none at all.”
23
However, McNamara justified the non-deployment thus:
“There is still considerable uncertainty as to its technical feasibility and, even if
successfully developed, there are many serious operating problems yet to be
solved. The system, itself, is vulnerable to ballistic missile attack, and its
effectiveness could be degraded by the use of more sophisticated ICBMs screened
by multiple decoys. Saturation of the target is another possibility as ICBMs
become easier and cheaper to produce in coming years. Finally, it is a very
expensive system in relation to the degree of protection that it can furnish.”
24
Amidst all this, the US missile defence program came under further pressure when it was
revealed that the Soviet Union had completed the first successful interception of a
warhead in March 1961.
25
Indeed, the Soviet Union had made several candid public
statements on its missile defence capacity. At the 1961 Communist Party Congress,
Marshal Rodion Malinovsky stated, “the problem of destroying enemy missiles in flight
has been successfully resolved.”
26
In 1962, Nikita Khrushchev made his celebrated
statement lauding the Soviet militaries’ ability to “hit a fly in space”.
27
Subsequently, it
was discovered that the Soviet Union had deployed the first ballistic missile defence
around Leningrad by the times, although it was abandoned in 1962. However, by 1965, a
23
House of Representatives, Department of Defense Appropriations for 1962: Hearings Before a
Subcommittee on Appropriations, 87
th
Cong., 1
st
sess., 1961, pt. 3:16-17.; from Adams p.45
24
Adams p.45
25
Missile Defense Milestones, Missile Defense Agency website, US Department of Defense,
www.acq.osd.mil/bmdo/bmdolink/html/milstone.html (nov 2002)
26
Sayre Stevens, “The Soviet BMD Program”, in Ashton B. Carter & David N. Schwartz (eds), Ballistic
Missile Defense, The Brookings Institution: Washington, DC, 1984, p.194
27
Ibid.


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