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Missile Defense Embodies Balanced Approach, General Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2008 – In a 21st-century security environment with diverse global threats, the United States must underpin its offensive capabilities with protective systems such as missile defense, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright said that mutually assured destruction -- the Cold War concept that global stability was achieved through the aversion to war that deadly U.S. and Russian arsenals produced -- is an outdated strategy, given today’s security landscape.

“Coming out of the Cold War and having the ‘luxury’ of a single enemy, and moving to a world in which the threat is much more diverse, the actors are all over and global, the idea of a single strategy -- an offense-only type of construct -- just didn’t seem appropriate,” Cartwright told an audience at the sixth annual U.S. Missile Defense Conference here.

To adapt to realities of emerging threats, the United States developed the “New Triad,” a posture that melds offensive and defensive capabilities into a unified strategy.

“The big idea was an integrated offense and defense, and the ability to pull that together and to offer the nation a broader range of tailored options against any adversary today and in the future,” Cartwright said.

Highlighting the defensive side of the strategy is the missile defense system, a bundled network of ground-, sea- and space-based sensors that feed into silos capable of launching U.S. projectiles to collide with and destroy enemy missiles in flight.

Twenty-five years ago, President Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of missile defense when he gave a landmark speech proposing a “Strategic Defense Initiative” with the intent of making nuclear missiles “impotent and obsolete.”

A skeptical media famously dubbed Reagan's initiative “Star Wars.”

But Cartwright said the credibility missile defense has brought the United States is apparent through American allies’ embracement of the system.

Japan successfully tested the system in December when it fired a U.S.-developed missile into the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean and shot down a ballistic test missile. In Europe, U.S. officials are negotiating deals with the Czech Republic and Poland to build missile defense components on their soil.

“As we look across the globe today,” Cartwright said, “this system -- which was to have as its priority defense of the homeland, defense of our deployed forces, defense of allies and friends -- has really taken off.”

The vice chairman said missile defense affords the United States greater flexibility in dealing with emerging and unknown threats.

“This is not just about what it does to others, it’s also about what it allows us to do and the diversity of the threats that we can now face and address,” he said. “(It reflects) the opportunity to know that nobody’s crystal ball is perfect and that we’re going to be surprised, but that we can react.”

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Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC

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